The History of the Donut

Doughnut(a.k.a donut) is one of our staple food. Doughnut is a food that is essential in our breakfast table. But how were doughnuts made?

Archaeologists found many fossils that resemble doughnuts in prehistoric Native American settlements, Roman and Greek civilization, and in medieval European remains. But clear recorded history of doughnut started in the 17th century, and various people–from Dutch immigrants to Russian immigrants to French bakers–left a significant mark in the development of doughnuts.

The form of ring-shaped doughnut we usually eat is influenced mostly by Dutch immigrants. Dutch immigrants brought their food called olykoek (or oil cake), to New Amsterdam (current day New York). The shape of olykoek was similar to current doughnut without a hole. This food was known to Americans when they conquered New Amsterdam from Dutch settlers.

One of the earliest books that used the word “doughnut” to replace olykoek was in A History of New York, written by Washington Irving in 1809. And the first cookbook that introduced doughnuts was an 1803 English volume. The cookbook introduced doughnut as American food, and this made people think that doughnut is American food. Additionally, the recipe book that the wife of Baron Thomas Dimsdale made used the word “doughnut.” Also, some magazines explain that the word “doughnut” came from Elizabeth Gregory, who put nuts in the center where the dough does not bake well. These usages of the word “doughnut” and the absence of a clear history of doughnut made people unable to trace the origin of the word, “doughnut.”

Even though the origin of the word “doughnut” is unclear, doughnuts developed as time progressed. In 1847, the ring-shaped doughnut was invented by Hanson Gregory, son of Elizabeth Gregory, when he was 16 years old. Hanson proposed that in a lime-trading ship, he ate the doughnut, and found out that the doughnut is very greasy. This greasiness motivated him to change the shape of doughnuts in various ways to make doughnuts more crispy, and he discovered the form that most of the present doughnuts have: making the hole at the center of the doughnut.

However, the main reason why doughnut became popular in America is because of World War I. During World War I, Americans had difficulty providing baked foods, and Salvation Army, who volunteered to help providing food, came up with the idea of providing doughnuts. This transformation made transferring food to military camps much more manageable, which solved the shortcoming of providing baked food to soldiers.

Action of Salvation Army, which was providing doughnuts to soldiers, made some changes in American society. First, American Soldiers who returned from the war became very fond of the doughnut, which made doughnut shops to be popular and caused American society to make national doughnut day to honor Salvation Army who volunteered to go to war to improve the lives of soldiers.

Increased popularity of Doughnuts opened a new market for business, and many people tried to meet the demand of doughnut by technological innovation. The first technology that helped doughnut production was doughnut cutter with spring, which was made on July 9, 1873, by John F. Blondel. Later, in 1920, the automatic machine that made doughnut production much faster was created by Adolf Levitt, who immigrated to America from Russia.

After the doughnut production machine made by Adolf Levitt, technology kept improved to make more doughnuts, and some people started to make new shape of doughnuts. French bakers made cruller doughnuts, Canadians made Dutchies, and Germans made Berliners.

Doughnuts developed its variety and popularity over time, and now, It is a good breakfast for people who want to start the day with simple, fresh, delicious food.