American Icons: The Doughnut

 

Dear America,

you and I. And Homer Simpson. We share one big passion.

It’s round, the most delicious thing EVER and well, the title already gave it away: It’s the doughnut.

Contrary to Zurich where it was practically impossible to get ahold of good artisanal doughnuts (and no, Dunkin Donuts that just recently opened up DOES NOT count), I’m in Doughnut heaven right now. This seems to be THE single thing EVERYONE eats, even fancy restaurants will put it up as a dessert item. I hope you get the point that doughnuts ARE IMPORTANT here (gonna stop with the capital letters in bold now, promise.)

All that interesting stuff about doughnuts (legends incl.)

To not let you go on with your day without knowing a bit more about the background story of this country’s most delicious pastry, find a few facts below.
Also, who knows, you might want to have input for a bit of small talk for upcoming holiday parties, right? A question to get conversations started could be: Why is there a hole in the doughnut? Intriguing, I know. The answer follows shortly.

Apparently, the credit for inventing doughnuts goes to Europe. More specifically to the Netherlands, where oliekoecken (oil cakes or fried cakes) were first made. Dutch pilgrims came to the US and introduced this delicious thing.

The Doughnut Dilemma
However, there was one little problem.  When the olykoeks were pulled from the frying kettle, the centers were rarely fully cooked. One temporary answer to that was to insert a filling that only needed to be warmed.

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Legend has it that a woman in New England back in the 1840s called Elizabeth Gregory was known to make great olykoeks. Part of her secret was to fill the center with nuts. She also had a special name for her creation — dough-nuts. This is an AHA moment, am I right?

Her son was a captain (Captain Hanson), so the good mother she was, she sent him a lot of doughnuts with the recipe of it to make more. This is where the legend gets a bit confusing. In one variation, Captain Hanson’s ship hits a storm and he finds himself having problems steering and holding his doughnut at the same time (on a side note: seems not to be best idea in the first place, but hey, he’s the captain, not me.) He went on to impale the doughnut on one of the spokes on the steering wheel to keep his hands free (what a brilliant solution). This again drove a hole through the raw center of the doughnut, which he liked a lot. Ever since, the legend says, he ordered his cook to prepare all doughnuts with holes in the center.

Another variation of the legend is far less dramatic. The Captain didn’t like the nuts that were in his mother’s recipe and requested that the ship’s cook removed them of the doughnuts centers. Also, with the removed center, the doughnuts cooked more evenly.

You weren’t expecting such a dramatic captains story? Oh the surprises doughnuts bring. 
I could go on and on about the history of the doughnut. Did you know that in the two World Wars doughnuts also played a role? And don’t get me started on Dunkin Donuts. It has been founded in Massachusetts. Quite an interesting story.

After all the talking, I need to go and buy me some doughnuts.

Are you a Swiss person and craving doughnuts right now? I am afraid, you might have to go to Dunkin Donuts. But don’t fear. The ever so great magazine Lucky Peach has made a very helpful chart showing you what to get at DD, if you have to go. Enjoy! powerranking_dd

© Union Square Donuts, BLACKBIRD Doughnuts

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