History of the Modern Donut: Donut heroes part I

Da Vinci's Donuts


The history of the donut has more uncertainty than the half eaten cannoli on your break room counter that came from who knows what production line. It is believed that Dutch settlers, coming to America, created the grandaddy of what we know as the modern donut. Dutch dessert makers dropped round cakes into pig fat and let them fry until brown. This method was popular during a time when you put everything in bacon and not bacon in everything. While delicious and full of natural  preservatives, for long voyages, these oliekoek had the problem of containing a gooey center, full of uncooked dough. The settlers solved this problem by stuffing them with nuts, fruits and all sorts of ingredients that didn’t require cooking to be enjoyed. For decades the donut’s ancestor remained the same, changing only in shape, to twisters. These globstrosities would collect fry fat in their bends and creases, wreaking havoc on the stomachs of the hardiest sailors.

This went on until a 16 year old boy from Maine, grew tired of eating irregularly shaped, raw cake, cores and oil creases. Hanson Gregory was sailing his trade route, eating the fried cakes that his mother had made for him when he became the first teenager to decide that cake was not good enough for him. The story of what happened next comes in three flavors. The creative version places him at the helm of his ship. Captain Gregory needed to free up his hands for steering in gale force winds but he had a handful of cake. Unwilling to send his mother’s cooking into Davy Jones’ Pantry, he skewered his cake on a peg of the steering wheel and marveled at his invention. This is a reach, considering that the cake would have been already cooked and popping out the doughy center could have been done at anytime.

Another version finds our innovator in the belly of his ship scheming on how to sell more cakes by using less material. This unfounded and slanderous story, claims that he popped out the center to skimp on ingredients. Again, this theory seems unlikely. Captain Hanson or Mr. Hanson -The Abolisher of Icky Middle Bits- as we like to call him, was a lime trader and not a seller of baked goods. The accepted story and the tale that Mr. Hanson -The Abolisher of Icky Middle Bits- confirms, tells of a boy who realized through his own intelligence and intuition that a hole would make the dough fry evenly. He grabbed the ship’s pepperbox and used it to  punched a hole straight through that cake. In that moment the modern donut was born and a boy became a legend.

Since then donuts have been the fluffy circles of heaven that Americans, rightly call their own. So, the next time you pull a Da Vinci’s donut off of the straw of your drink, remember that a 16 year old hero, who believed that even cake could be improved, is behind that little hole. He is the reason that our donuts keep you smiling as you leave our shop of delights with a spring in your step.