Sunday, November 23, 2014

History of the Doughnut Hole

I know, it's an odd topic, but I just had to find out. You see, while I was researching my Pony Express story, I came across a little side story. Supposedly, the Pony Express riders were romantic heroes to the young ladies in the border towns. I'll buy that. The ladies used to stand in the streets with pastries and treats when the riders came through town. Whoever got rid of the most treats was considered the most popular girl. Unfortunately, a lot of pastry hit the ground, since the riders couldn't grab and hold onto it while at a full gallop. So, some enterprising young lady came up with the idea of putting a hole in the middle of a pastry to allow for an easier grab, making the first doughnut.

Could it possibly have been the case? I had to find out.

I hate to be the one to squash a romantic legend, but, in this case, the story is evidently false.

Doughnut remains have been found in archeological digs, so they've been around in one form or the other for centuries. The modern doughnut, though, is credited to the Dutch, who made oliekoek, a sweetened cake fried in fat. Its notoriety came about in 1847, when Elizabeth Gregory made some of her doughnuts for her son, Captain Hanson Gregory to take on one of his sea voyages. Captain Hanson  ran into some rough weather on board ship and was having trouble steering the ship while holding his doughnut. He impaled the doughnut onto on of the spokes of the steering wheel, thereby creating a perfect hole in the center of pastry.

Even this story has the earmarks of an urban legend, doesn't it?

Regardless of which story you believe, the results are the same. Doughnuts have holes in them for the simple reason of making them easy to grasp onto. For some of us, there's a tendency to grasp too many. And if impressing the Pony Express riders was the true reason for the doughnut's existence, we have even more to thank them for than merely delivering the mail.

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