Evolution of the Donut: a Tasty History Lesson
We know that donuts taste amazing. We know that you can find them all over the world. We know that there are many different places that sell them. But what do we know about where they came from? Who is the genius that created these delectable delights?
It appears that no one person can take the credit for the creation of the donut. But there have been some stand out moments in the history of our favorite treats. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the Dutch were big donut contributors with their olykoeks, or “oil cakes”. These were basically balls of cake fried in pork fat. Since the center of the cakes wouldn’t always cook, they were stuffed with fruit or nuts. When the Dutch began to immigrate, they brought their oily cakes with them, which helped lay the pavement for the “donut proper”.
Miss Elizabeth Gregory, another donut contributor, would make similar deep fried dough balls for her son flavored with nutmeg, lemon and cinnamon and filled with hazelnuts and walnuts. Her son, a New England ship Captain is actually credited with putting the hole in the donut. It is unclear whether he did this to be stingy or to make the food easier to digest for his crew. In any case, we thank Hanson Gregory for giving the donut its recognizable shape.
As we uncover more about donut history, it is clear that most cultures have their own version of this snack. In Prague they munch on jam-filled and powder-covered kobliha, and in medieval Europe, donut-like treats were a pre-Lent carnival food says Saveur Mag. It was in 1920 with the creation of the donut machine that donuts were available to the masses for instant consumption. It became a public spectacle – children and adults alike with faces pressed against the glass to watch the machine creation of these sugary treats.
By 1934, our beloved donut had become so popular that it was dubbed the “hit food in the century of progress” by the Chicago World’s fair. It wasn’t long after that Vernon Rudolph started selling his renowned Krispy Kreme donuts to local grocery stores in Salem, NC. By 1950, Bill Rosenburg had opened the first Dunkin’ Donuts and the ongoing “doughnut” vs. “donut” debate was born. In any case, the donut chain was becoming a reality and the donut was taking off as a top American food.
Now, with the growing trend of “boutique foods”, specialty donut shops are popping up all across the country. These gourmet donuts have become one of the hottest trends in retail bakery that we’ve seen. Nearly every city has at least one of these donut doozeys to their name (bragging rights included). Costumers are flocking towards their unique flavor combinations and crazy toppings. Spots like Voodoo Doughnuts combine franchising with this idea of a “designer donut”. They have six different locations and a truck and still keep the authenticity of the original location in Portland.
Donut history supports that the donut we know today is a hybrid of different cultures coming together to create something magical. They have become a staple comfort food in America and are only becoming more popular. The future is bright for our favorite holey treat and we couldn’t be more excited!