Blog for and by students and staff in the English section of the University of Namur's Department of Germanic languages...
Friday, December 09, 2011
A donut is a beignet of traditional deep-fried dough, sometimes filled, or powdered with sugar, glazed and fired in oil. According to the OALD, the noun is spelt doughnut or donut, the latter is especially used in North America. The noun was first written dough-nut, which clearly designates nuts, i.e. little balls of fried dough.
Historians do not agree about the origin of the Donut. Different hypotheses explain its apparition. First, the Donut would have come from the Dutch Oliebol, which was introduced in the US by Dutch settlers. In 1847 the Captain Hanson Crockett Gregory and his sailors ate these Oliebollen. One day most of the men went overboard and because the pastry was too heavy and too fat, they could not swim and sank. As a result, Gregory was so angry that he took one of the spoke of the rudder and made a hole into one of the oliebol. The cakes were then lighter and became Donuts. This story is however uncertain and it is believed that Gregory decided to make a hole into the fattest part of the cake. Another possible origin suggests that, during the battle against the Dutch, Chief High Eagle’s arrows reached the oliebollen instead of his opponents and made holes into them. Even if we do not know the exact origins of the Donuts we have trustworthy information about later events. Indeed, there is a “National Doughnut Day” in the United States, which was created in 1938 to raise funds for the Salvation Army. It takes place on the first Friday of June. It honours the women who baked doughnuts during WWI for American soldiers in order to cheer them up. On this occasion, several doughnut companies give out free donuts.
This National Day shows the importance of the Donut as a cultural icon of the United States; but it is not the only representation of its popularity. For instance the famous American cartoon character “Homer Simpson” loves eating donuts. That has contributed to its popularity around the world. There are also eating contests, in which the participants have to eat as many donuts as possible in a specific time-limit. Furthermore it is quite common to see “cops” go and buy that pastry. Last but not least, the donut is very much present on the Australian continent as well. Indeed, Donut King, Australia’s largest donut company, built up the world’s biggest donut, which was made up of 90,000 smaller ones, when “The Simpsons Movie” was released. As a result of all this, donut companies are implanted worldwide (e.g. Dunkin’ Donuts) and the popularity of the famous “fried dough” is known throughout the whole world. Even in Africa, the donuts are enjoyed by many, but it is a salty variation of the traditional one.