John Larrysson's Kitchen: Doughnuts

There are claims that the doughnut (also spelt donut) is an American invention or was invented by some particular person in England. However, as I will show, these claims are false. First let us look at what a doughnut is.

Cakes, pies, cookies and biscuits are baked. Pudding is steamed or boiled. However there is yet another type of bread dessert. Doughnuts are a type of dessert bread deep fried in lard (pig fat). Doughnuts are generally made with wheat flour, water, yeast or baking soda, eggs, milk, lots of sugar, fats, various flavourings....

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To prove that the doughnut was not invented in America, my source is the Oxford English Dictionary. (The word is probably American, but I am only challenging the claim to have invented the food.) The word doughnut is only about 200 years old. The oldest written reference for the word doughnut shows us the origin. Washington Irving wrote in 1809 in A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, “An enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog's fat, called doughnuts, or olykoeks...” The Dictionary also says, “Olykoeks originated in Dutch cookery and were introduced to America by early 17th-century Dutch settlers in New York.” Doughnuts, called olykoeks (oil cakes), are originally an old Dutch food, not an American food. To claim to have invented a thing, because one copied it from someone else is intellectually dishonest and cultural appropriation.

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Doughnuts are often round with a hole in the middle. Other shapes are available for traditional recipes, including the hole. Doughnuts, the size of a doughnut hole, are called doughnut holes. Things with a fat ring shape, can be called a doughnut. An extreme example in physics is that, a toroidal vacuum chamber (placed between the magnet poles of a synchrotron, in which electrons or protons are accelerated) is also called a doughnut.

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In Canada, a coffee and doughnut is as traditional as a pint of ale is in England. There doughnuts are made with a harder flour and are not as sickeningly soft and sweet as the usual American doughnut. Doughnuts, by another name, have been a traditional Dutch dessert for centuries. Many European countries have their own historical dessert fried breads. This fatty dessert bread is not specifically American (Only the word is!). Many cultures around the world have deep fried breads.

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by John Larrysson

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A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for over two decades.


NOTE:Starting in 2016, this column has been published once every two weeks, on every other Tuesday.

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