I hear the oil bubbling in the giant black pot. Its acrid smell blending with the pungent smell odor of cinnamon and nutmeg. My silver-haired granny is wearing a red and green checkered apron, and her hands, devoid of the gold jewelry usually adorning them, are buried in sticky dough. “The key” she tells me with a wink, “is to not make too big of balls.”
She turns to the angry oil and drops in a dough ball. The sticky dough sinks into the bottom, then rises again to the surface, triumphant in its airiness. She ladles it out once it’s golden brown and bathes it in the waiting mixture of cinnamon and sugar. I taste it slowly, letting its creamy insides mesh with the crispy skin of oil and sugar. Outside, the tenacious last leaves of fall were swatted by wet snow.
The first snowfall of the winter season always meant Granny’s fresh donuts. As a kid, I couldn’t wait to be at her house, absorbing all the smells, embracing the wonder. When my family moved overseas to Germany, the donut recipe followed. My brother, David, scribbled down the ingredients on an index card. We made batches and batches, trying to perfect Granny’s rhythm. I’m not sure we ever replicated it to perfection.
There is something magical about a good tradition. It is connection to family. Remembrance of roots. A chance for grateful for good things.
So, as a mom now with a family of my own, I continue to watch the weather patterns in the early fall.. When predictions come for flurries in September or October, I gather up ingredients, ready. As soon as the whiteness covers the ground, the oil is heated up for frying. Over the years, my family and I have made other donut recipes, including chocolate donut holes and baked apple cinnamon donuts.
But Granny’s recipe was the first one.
This year, my young son woke up the morning after the first snow of the season, saw its puffy whiteness on the ground, looked at me and said, “Mommy, I want a donut.”
The tradition continues strong.