The History of the Donut
As we prepare for National Donut Day this Friday, June 1st, we thought we'd share a little bit of history about the delectable treat at the heart of our business. Be sure to follow us on social media to see all the fun stuff we are planning for the big day, including free mini donuts, discounts, giveaways and more!
Donut or Doughnut?
First off, is it a doughnut or donut? Well, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, doughnut is the proper spelling. However, the variant donut has been published since the mid-20th century. It's actually a part of the tradition of phonetic-based spelling reform, embraced by the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Noah Webster. So for all you doughnut purists, donut is totally acceptable too :)
Food resembling donuts has been found in many ancient sites, but the modern version can be traced back to Dutch settlers bringing them along to New Amsterdam, or what is today New York. These were called olykoeks or "oily cakes" by the Dutch. However, these donuts still didn't have the current ring shape. The first cookbook mentioning donuts was an 1803 English volume which included them in an appendix of American recipes. By the mid-19th century, the donut had taken it's modern day form, and was viewed as a primarily American food.
Why the Hole?
A New England ship captain's mother, Elizabeth Gregory, made donuts for her son and his crew to enjoy on long voyages. But it wasn't until Captain Hanson Gregory used the top of a round tin pepper box to cut into the middle of the donut, that the hole was added. So why did he do it? Rumors abound, but some of the more popular ones include that he wanted to skimp out on ingredients, or that he needed to keep both hands on the wheel in a storm so he skewered the donut on a spoke of the wheel.
"The first doughnut hole ever seen by mortal eyes." - Captain Hanson Gregory
The Donut Machine
In New York City in 1920, Adolph Levitt, a refugee from czarist Russia, began selling fried donuts from his bakery. The throngs of people that descended upon his shop forced him to develop a machine that could meet the demand. This was the first time the donut had become a public spectacle, appealing to a mass market, and the ability to use automation to produce them made them a part of the wave of the future.
A Product of War
Donuts were served to American soldiers abroad in both World War I and World War II. Female morale boosters, nicknamed "Donut Dollies," served troops during and after battle. But it wasn't until soldiers started returning home from World War II that people realized there was huge demand for the donut outside of war time. Soldiers had nostalgia for the tasty treat, and it was out of this demand that chain franchises like Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme were born.
In 1937, the chain Kripsy Kreme was started by Vernon Rudolph and two friends in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with just $25 between the three of them. They sold their Krispy Kremes out of their 1936 Pontiac, and eventually started a wholesale operation, selling to other shops in the area. But soon the aroma wafting from his shop had passerbys asking for donuts right then and there. Rudolph began to enter into partnerships or franchise relationships for Krispy Kreme Retail stores. Popularity spread and by the late 1950s, Krispy Kreme stores littered the east-coast.
In 1929, Americans ate 216 million donuts, but today we eat close to 10 billion a year. At first this demand was mainly satisfied by the large chain brands, but recently a trend of small batch, hand-crafted donuts has begun to emerge. At CRAFT Donuts + Coffee, we combine a passion for this classic delicious pastry with creative new techniques and flavors, to bring you today's modern donut. The next time you are savoring a bite of our delicious donuts, you'll know a little bit more about how this snack became one of America's favorite obsessions!