Happy New Year! Now it’s time to get down to serious business: donuts. What’s your pleasure?
Glazed. Frosted. Jelly or cream?
Ninety-six percent of Americans love donuts. The market is worth over sixteen billion dollars . . . and growing. In the U.S. alone there are over two hundred million donut consumers.
That’s a lot of dunking.
Where was it invented? Consider this: Japan has an-doughnut, Tunsia has gulgula, Italy has zeppole. Donuts are everywhere. The only way to trace its origin is to go back to basics.
What is a donut (or doughnut, if you prefer)?
Basically it’s a small, deep-fried cake, usually sweetened with different flavors, fillings, or frostings. They have been around for thousands of years. According to Michael Krondi, food historian and author, ancient Greeks and Romans ate small, doughy cakes dipped in honey or smelly fish sauce.
In the Middle Ages Arabs fried unsweetened yeast dough and drenched it in sugar syrup. They brought it to Europe where it was very popular. Sugar was expensive so Germans modified the recipe to make a savory version with meat and mushrooms. The Pilgrims and Dutch settlers brought donuts to the New World.
Krondi writes that the first published recipe (1750) took walnut-sized dough and fried it. Peter G. Rose, another food historian, challenged him with a Dutch recipe for olykoek (oily cakes) published in 1667. The olykoek was a fried donut ball filled with almonds, raisins, chopped apples, and cinnamon.
Sufganiyot – a round jelly donut from Poland – arrived. The first recipe was published in 1485. Jewish Polish immigrants brought it to Israel. Now it’s eaten every year on Hanukah, celebrating the miracle of the burning oil lamps in Jerusalem. The IDF buys hundreds of thousands sufganiyot for their active soldiers!
Donuts sailed with nineteenth century New England whaling ships. Catching whales, processing them, and melting the blubber into oil was hard work. The crew was rewarded with a big batch of donuts fried in fishy-smelling whale oil. Doesn’t quite sound like a glazed Krispy Kreme.
The American donut was delicious and patriotic. In World War I, millions of donuts made it to the trenches, delivered by women volunteers called Doughnut Girls. In World War II the ladies were called Doughnut Dollies. The donuts brought a taste of home to the soldiers.
William Rosenberg, son of Jewish immigrants in Dorchester, Massachusetts recognized the potential of donuts. In 1948 he opened a store, Open Kettle, serving donuts for five cents each and coffee for ten cents. Two years later Rosenberg changed the name to Dunkin’ Donuts. Today there are over 12,000 Dunkin’ Donuts stores in forty-five countries.
The second most popular donut store, Krispy Kreme, opened its doors in 1937 Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Krispy Kreme now has over 1400 stores in Asia, Mexico, the Middle East, Puerto Rico, and Turkey, not including the U.S.
Maybe it’s not so bad to be second best?
Today the average American downs about thirty-three donuts a year, favoring cream-filled and glazed. There are also strange flavors like bacon and maple syrup, pulled pork and potato, and banana, bacon, cream, peanut butter, and jam.
Donuts have broken world records. Ask Joey Chestnut (champion of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest). He ate a stomach-clenching fifty-five glazed donuts in eight minutes, well over 14,000 calories.
I wonder what that is in Weight Watcher points.
Krispy Kreme boasts the most expensive donut at $1600 – made with twenty-four edible gold leaves. Guinness World Records confirmed the largest filled donut weighed 1.7 tons.
It all adds up to one thing: get dunking. Now.