The story of SuzyQ Doughnuts begins in a remote area of Eastern Finland called Karelia, with an ancient family recipe for a traditional Finnish sugar doughnut known as Sugar Munkki. The Sugar Munkki recipe was passed down from generation to generation, and though it had survived for centuries in the care of one family, it was almost lost in 1940 when Finland was overcome by war.
When the Red Army’s tanks advanced on Karelia at the outset of the Winter War a brave young girl, who had not yet been taught how to make the sacred doughnuts but still understood the importance of the tradition, took the recipe with her, clutching the paper to her chest as she and her family fled the home they had occupied for generations. As the crash of destruction thundered in the distance, the family knew their home was gone. The mother, fearing that the recipe was lost with the house cried out, “the Sugar Munkki!” and began to weep. But relief came to the beleaguered family as the daughter reached into her coat and pulled out the weathered page, preserving the only remaining physical remnant of the family’s history and identity.
After running frantically through snow covered forests, the family – mother, father and daughter – found refuge for the night in an abandoned farm house. The discovery of this house would alter their lives forever.
While they searched the house for kindling to start a fire, the family discovered a box of old, yellowing envelopes. Though they were desperate for warmth, something stopped them from adding the letters to their meager fire. The curious daughter took out one of the letters and started to read.
The letters were from a man writing home to his family. He spoke of a long journey overseas and his arrival in his new home of Canada. He told stories of the people he met, travelling the country by train and the new foods that he discovered. “I find a lot of the food very peculiar,” he wrote in one of the letters, “but one dish that I have come to love is pancakes with maple syrup and bacon.” The family, tired, hungry and afraid of what the next days might hold took comfort in imagining this strange, beautiful country, and wondering how the combination of maple and bacon would taste. By morning the family had finished all the letters. The daughter, no longer fearful for her family’s future, now believed that one day they too would travel to Canada.
In the morning, when they were ready to leave the abandoned house, the father looked out the front window and noticed some soldiers approaching. There were no tanks with them due to the thick forest around the house. He quickly and quietly gathered his family and they made their way to the back door. Before the soldiers could enter the house, the family was gone, running out the back door and into the forest again.
They moved silently through the trees. No one spoke for fear that the soldiers had followed their footprints and would be able to hear them. When they finally emerged from the forest’s shadows, they found themselves at the edge of the world. The waves roared, and the icy wind grabbed at their hair and clothes.
The daughter, spotting something in the distance, yelled out. “Look, look! Something by the water!” and ran toward it. But her jubilation was interrupted when she ran into a soldier who grabbed her and began shouting in a foreign tongue. The parents ran toward her, but were stopped in their tracks when the soldier raised his weapon.
A tense standoff ensued. The soldier had one hand on the girls shoulder, keeping her from moving, and one hand on his gun, pointing at her parents. They could see the fear in their daughter’s eyes and in her hand she clutched the paper that she’d carried with her from the moment they fled. The mother pleaded for her daughter’s safety, but the soldier just yelled back and waved his gun at them. When all hope seemed to be lost that they could negotiate for their daughter’s life, a man snuck up from behind and knocked the gun from the soldier’s hand. The daughter ran into her parent’s embrace and the mysterious stranger took the gun, pointed it at the soldier and gestured for him to run back into the forest.
“Come with me,” the man said to the visibly shaken family. What the daughter had seen by the water was a white shack with wood panelling and thick black border along the top. There was a dock extending into the water and a boat tied up to it. “It is not safe for us here,” the man said, upon entering. “We must leave. Rest up, have something to eat, and then we will leave.” The mother quietly got up, took the paper from her daughter, and went to the kitchen. “Where we will go?” the girl asked, “Canada?” The man answered, “we can go wherever we want. I know a man in Sweden who can get you safe passage to anywhere in the world. If you want to go to Canada you can go to Canada.” The family decided that if they had to leave their homeland, they would go to Canada.
When the mother had returned from the kitchen she had a plate full of doughnuts. She distributed the sugar doughnuts to everyone for a snack before their departure. After one bite, the man looked up, and with a bewildered expression on his face said, “This is the most exquisite thing I have ever eaten. How did you make such a masterpiece in my kitchen?” The mother smiled and handed the piece of paper back to her daughter. “Thank you for saving my family,” she said.
When everyone had finished their snack the man took them out to his boat. They set out, leaving Finland behind. The terror was over and the now looked forward to starting a new life. A month later the family was in Canada, starting that new life in the nation’s capital. They continued making doughnuts, but the daughter soon surpassed her mother in both ability and creativity. When the daughter grew up and started her own family she passed on the doughnut making tradition to her own daughter, Susan. Susan was told many times the story of escaping the war with the family recipe and the man with the white shack who rescued her and allowed her family to come to Canada.
In 2012 SuzyQ Doughnuts opened in a little white shack in Hintonburg. The doughnuts honour the old Finnish traditional recipe of the “Sugar Munkki” with new and unique flavours being created all the time. The combination of classics such as Maple Bacon, Cookies n’ Cream, Dirty Chocolate and Salty Caramel with more experimental and season flavours such as Blue Vanilla Fruit Loop, Mango Lassi, Raspberry Lemonade and Bumbleberry SuzyQ has quickly become a must visit among Ottawa burgeoning food scene.