Left in Andover: A devout vegetarian savors Andover farm wives’ doughnuts

By Susan Leader
©2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

My dad’s zeitgeist was not an easy fit with the culture of 1950s Andover. But one local custom that he was bullish on was doughnuts. Doughnuts may have qualified as his favorite food.

Andover’s farm wives were famous for them. My mother’s refusal to bake with white sugar and flour was the closest Dad came to straying from her.

Herb Leader loved the Andover farm wives doughnuts so much that after his death, his daughter Susan created a memorial platter.

On several occasions he whipped up some himself on our wood cookstove at Popplewood. My older sister and I got to cut them out with a wooden-handled doughnut cutter.

But really Dad lived for the doughnuts that our neighborhood women cooked up for Town Meeting and other special occasions. So much so that after his death I created a memorial doughnut platter to honor the doughnut makers of Andover.

Dad was a strict vegetarian. So strong a magnet were the doughnuts, however, that he overlooked the obvious: Likely as not they were deep fried in lard.

My sibling reunion last week included a visit from a childhood chum whose grandmother’s doughnuts had particularly delighted my father.

While my brother whipped up a batch of fried tofu on his camping stove, we chatted, conjuring the ghosts of traditional Andover Finnish coffee cake perfumed with cardamom — and Andover doughnuts. The experience was similar to walking around the farmers market munching on a delicious chocolate croissant — while viewing the produce displays.

Not that fried tofu isn’t good. In fact, it is scrumptious. And easy to make. And satisfying as only fried foods can be.

The recipe, made extra enjoyable by conversation about doughnuts, could not be simpler:

Fried tofu isn’t exactly Andover doughnuts, but it is tasty.

Bread thin slices of tofu in a mixture of cornmeal, rice flour and sesame seeds. Fry in the fat of your choice (lard anyone?) on a cast iron griddle. Splatter a bit of tamari, then remove the sizzling morsels from the pan and devour.

Since we were gathered outside, a clean board left over from a carpentry project made the perfect serving platter.

Afterward, as we walked our old friend home, we peeked along the stone wall where we played together as children. Sure enough, the wild sedum, or frogs bellies as we called it, still grows in exactly the same location.

Although this plant is not generally known as a wild edible, it didn’t kill us then, any more than the doughnuts did. So we nibbled a bit of it together for auld lang syne.

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Filed Under: Left in Andover

About the Author: Vermont native and noted potter Susan Leader grew up on Popplewood Farm in Andover. At age 17, she was inspired to take up the potter's wheel by "a charismatic potter" from the Society of Vermont Craftsman. She spent 18 months apprenticing at pottery villages throughout Japan. She returned to Popplewood Farm, where she and her husband, fiddle player John Specker, raised their two daughters.

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  1. Amanda Frank says:

    Rosa, I just happened to see your comment. My gramma was Finnish and we still make her coffee bread (pulla) recipe. I’d happily give it to you if I knew how. This recipe is quite close: https://www.feastingathome.com/pulla-for-lea/

  2. Hi Ritva!

    Do you have a recipe for Finnish coffee bread that you could recommend?


  3. Ritva Burton says:

    Home made Finnish coffee bread – yummy, nothing better warm from the oven! Home made donuts (are good also) but can’t beat the Finnish coffee bread.