In Defense of Donuts

It’s Donut, not Doughnut. In a world of emojis, Snaps and Tweets, we don’t have time for dough.

The donut represents iconic American innovation. Somewhere in early human history, some clutz dropped flour into hot oil and the confection was born. Americans perfected it. By combining and compacting ingredients—sugar, flour, fat and more sugar—Americans built a legacy on sweet treats. Even the donut hole epitomizes American ingenuity, whichever origin story you believe. Whether you buy the one about retailers cutting a hole to stretch ingredients or the New England ship Captain Hanson Gregory skewering the donut on the ship’s wheel, it’s American at its core.

Fried dough had been around but the proper donut made its way to Manhattan under the unappetizing Dutch alias of olykoeks–“oily cakes.” Sounds about right to me. Donuts were first documented in an 1803 British cookbook in the American recipe appendix. The sweet confection brought the taste of home to American doughboys—homesick soldiers during WWI. The first donut machine was invented in New York City in 1920. The first automated donut maker featured prominently at the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago, allowing the round mounds of goodness to warm our hearts. Mechanical donut automation served as the Moore’s Law of decadent dandies. Visit any Krispy Kreme today and bear witness to the majestic Rube Goldberg machine raising, frying and glazing the platoon of sugar soldiers without human intervention. Note: visit only when the neon “Hot Doughnuts Now” glows red.

Automation brought the dough boom. Krispy Kreme was founded in 1937, followed by Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950. Today, donut shops are both Big Donut and local Mom’n’Pops. Small business owners often work seven days a week, rising early to fill the racks with rows of deliciousness—cake and raised, frosted and glazed. Shout out to Donut Maker, Angel Donuts and Glazed and Confused!

These glazed goods have artfully defended themselves through waves of nutritional outrage and dietary assaults. Why? Because Americans love sugar and we’re destined for a WALL-E future scooting our fat butts around being served fried dough by loving robots.

Donuts are a symbol of culture. Icons like Clark Gable made waves promoting the dunk. Homer Simpson fended off Hell Labs Ironic Punishment Division by eating ALL the donuts. Donuts are the snack of choice when Mars Attacks and when Ironman needs a break.

Our affection for gluttonous infamy brought passion projects to the fore. The artisans arrived importing ingredients from popular culture—bacon, sugar cereal and the ingenious cronut, a croissant-donut crossover invented in, wait for it, New York, New York.  

Pumped up by Food Networks and energetic, diabetic bakers, our Nation found themselves under a Voodoo spell, capturing taste buds and filling waist lines from coast to coast. Donuts have never made an office meeting worse. A cup of coffee was only improved.

National Donut Day is always the 1st Friday in June. But it’s only March. March is the month of donuts.

Buy a dozen. Buy a baker’s dozen. Your family, friends and anyone with taste buds will approve.

Welcome to the March of Donuts.

Related articles:

The History of the Doughnut, Smithsonian.com, March 1998

Glazed America: Anthropologist Examines Doughnut as Symbol of Consumer Culture, Newswise.com, 7/21/2008

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