Here’s the skinny on today’s celebration. We are drawn to circles of fried dough like sprinkles to chocolate glaze. Doughnuts arrived in New Amsterdam (before it was Manhattan) and were dubbed ‘olykoeks’ or “oily cakes” by the Dutch. In the mid-19th century, Elizabeth Gregory, mother of a ship captain, cobbled together a deep-fried dough spiked with nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon. Liz placed hazelnuts (or walnuts) in the center of the dough where it tended to remain uncooked, and called them doughnuts/donuts. Captain Gregory was given credit for placing the hole in the doughnut. Various theories abound debating and debunking the ‘hole’ truth and nothing but.
During World War I, homesick American doughboys (soldiers) were served doughnuts fried up by “Donut Lassies,” female Salvation Army volunteers. During World War II, “Donut Dollies” referred to American Red Cross volunteers working overseas in clubmobiles, single decker buses outfitted with a phonograph plus coffee and doughnut making equipment. These could be considered an early version of the food truck.
The first doughnut machine arrived in New York City in 1920 and is credited to Russian baker, Adolph Levitt. This technology transformed the oily cake into something light and puffy. By 1934, doughnuts were dubbed “the food hit of the Century of Progress.” Also of note, doughnuts sold in the Depression era often included words of inspiration; “As you go through life make this your goal: Watch the doughnut, not the hole.” Words to live by as you celebrate Doughnut Day. Remember to keep the oil in the fryer plenty hot and raise your coffee mug to the Doughnut Lassies and Dollies of days gone by, and all the doughnut makers standing over deep-fat fryers today. #timetomakethedoughnuts
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