The hole-y doughnut

Why do doughnuts have holes?

A Maine-based sailor named Captain Gregory Hansen claims to have invented the hole in the doughnut as a teenager in the late 1840s.

There are varying versions of how and why this happened.

The gooey middle: The original, hole-less doughnut first arrived in the US in the form of Dutch olykoeks, or “oily cakes.” The sweetened dough balls fried in hogs fat were called doughnuts because of their shape – resembling a round, nut of dough.

In this version of the story, young Gregory was dissatisfied with how his mother’s doughnuts wouldn’t cook all the way through to the middle, leaving the inside gooey. On impulse, he punched a hole through some uncooked dough balls with a fork and said “here, try this” – the rest is history.

Multi-tasking: After becoming one of the youngest sea captains of the time at the age of 19, another version of the story describes Gregory sailing a ship during a storm – he pushed a doughnut onto the spoke of the wheel to keep it in place while he steered (and ate), and the first ever doughnut hole was created.

Easy eating: A third version of the story, retold by Gregory himself during an interview with the Washington Post, again involves him sailing on a boat – but in this one he was having trouble eating the doughnut because it was so tough and greasy. So, he cut a hole in it with the round cover of the ship’s tin pepper box to make it easier to consume – “the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes.”

More lore:

  • Doughnuts vs. Donuts? “Doughnut” is actually proper, but “donut” is acceptable. If you look in older dictionaries, you’ll only find “doughnut.” However, the Merriam-Webster dictionary now lists “donut” as a variant of “doughnut.”
  • An Oregon doughnut shop used to offer medicinal doughnuts coated with Pepto Bismol and sprinkled with tums to hungover customers. They had to stop doing this after the FDA stepped in.
  • Renee Zellweger said she ate 20 doughnuts a day to gain weight for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.

Which of the above versions of the doughnut hole story sounds most plausible to you? Please share in the comments below.

And remember…


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