15 Delicious Facts About Doughnuts

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Doughnuts are everywhere. Over the last century, few pastries have inspired as much long-lasting enthusiasm, or as many film and television tributes, as the humble ring of fried dough.

Although we’ve been gobbling down doughnuts by the baker's dozens for years, most of us don’t know that much about their delicious history. Here are 15 tasty facts about the iconic pastry.

1. Over 10 billion doughnuts are made in the U.S. each year.

The American doughnut industry is huge, with numerous fast food chains dedicated to their production. Canada, meanwhile, produces fewer doughnuts (approximately 1 billion per year), but with its lower population, actually has the most doughnut shops per capita of any country in the world.

2. There are 10 people living in America with the last name "Doughnut" or "Donut."

At least that was the total in 2011. It's unclear whether "Doughnut" was their given last name, or whether they changed it out of passion for the pastry. Meanwhile, 13 people have the first name “Donut,” making it the 245,396th most popular name in the United States.

3. Washington Irving was the first writer to describe doughnuts in print.

Washington Irving, who is best known as the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, described the pastry as "balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog's fat, and called doughnuts, or olykoeks.” He is widely believed to be the first writer to wax poetic about these delicious concoctions.

4. Voodoo Doughnut used to sell "medicinal" doughnuts, which were coated with Nyquil or Pepto Bismol.

Portland, Oregon-based Voodoo Doughnut is famous for its wild doughnut flavors. For a while, the doughnut shop even offered NyQuil- and Pepto Bismol-coated doughnuts (the latter were dipped in Pepto Bismol, sprinkled with Tums, and marketed to customers who’d had too much to drink and wanted a snack that was easy on the stomach). The doughnut shop was eventually forced to retire its medicinal flavors after the FDA stepped in.

5. "Spudnuts" have dough made of potatoes instead of flour.

Made with mashed potatoes or potato starch, potato doughnuts were once so popular they had their own fast food chain: Spudnuts. The mostly defunct chain (there are apparently a few independent locations hanging on, but the parent company no longer exists) was founded by two brothers—an appliance salesman and drug store clerk—in the 1940s. They were the first fast food doughnut chain to open in Los Angeles.

6. Boston has the most doughnut shops per person.

Bostonians really love their doughnuts: The city has one doughnut shop for every 2480 people according to AdWeek.

7. The French used to call their doughnuts "nun's farts."

The airy fried dough fritters—slightly different from the American circular doughnut—are called pets de nonne in French, which translates to “nun’s farts.”

8. There's some truth to the "cops love doughnuts" trope.

Back in the 1950s, police officers on the graveyard shift would stop by doughnut shops—which were among the few establishments open late—to do paperwork and have a snack. Eventually a reciprocal relationship developed: Doughnut shop owners welcomed the protection of police officers, and police officers liked having a place to chow down late at night, so the association stuck around.

9. Renée Zellweger ate 20 doughnuts a day to gain weight for the Bridget Jonessequel.


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Renée Zellweger needed to gain weight fast to reprise her role as the eponymous heroine in 2004's Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. The actress claimed to have eaten “a Big Mac and chips, potatoes swimming in butter, pizza, milkshakes, and 20 doughnuts” every day to hit her weight goal in time for shooting.

10. Doughnuts were once declared "the hit food" of the century.

At the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair—which was billed as "A Century of Progress"—doughnuts were given the lofty title of "Hit Food of the Century of Progress." Because they were fresh and the automated machines made them quickly, they were cheap and became "a staple of the working class" during the Depression, according to Sally Levitt Steinberg, whose grandfather invented the doughnut machine.

11. Clark Gable taught movie audiences how to properly dunk doughnuts in It Happened One Night.


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In 1934's It Happened One Night, Clark Gable's character outlined the rules for proper dunking etiquette to co-star Claudette Colbert. "Dunking's an art," he explained. "Don't let it soak so long. A dip and—plop, into your mouth. If you let it soak so long, it'll get soft and fall off. It's all a matter of timing. I ought to write a book about it."

12. A New England ship captain claimed to have invented the hole in doughnuts.

Elizabeth Gregory, mother of 19th-century ship captain Hanson Gregory, would famously make fried dough pastries for her son and his crew to take on their voyages. Though the elder Gregory may have been an early doughnut innovator (she packed the pastries with nuts, and flavored them with cinnamon and nutmeg), it was Captain Hanson Gregory who claimed to have invented the actual doughnut hole, calling it "the first doughnut hole ever seen by mortal eyes."

13. Doughnuts were served to soldiers during WWI.

During World War I, Salvation Army workers would bring soldiers doughnuts and coffee in the trenches of France to cheer them up and remind them of home.

14. One California doughnut shop became a movie star in the 1980s—and still is.


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Featuring a massive 32-foot doughnut sculpture atop its low, flat roof, Randy's Donuts is one of the most iconic Hollywood doughnut shops. The store, which opened in the 1950s as part of the now-defunct Big Donut Drive-In chain, has appeared in numerous movies, including Earth Girls are Easy (1988), Get Shorty (1995), The Golden Child (1986), Crocodile Dundee (1986), and Iron Man 2 (2010).

15. They were once called olykoeks.

Though many countries have independently developed their own version of doughnuts, the Dutch are widely credited with bringing the fried pastry to America prior to the Revolutionary War, originally calling them olykoeks, meaning "oily cakes."

This article originally ran in 2016.

Cheese Made from Celebrities' Microbes Is On View at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum

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iStock/bhofack2

London's Victoria & Albert Museum is home to such artifacts as ancient Chinese ceramics, notebooks belonging to Leonardo da Vinci, and Alexander McQueen's evening dresses—all objects you might expect to see in a world-famous museum. However, the cultural significance of the selection of cheeses now on display at the museum is less obvious. The edible items, part of a new exhibition called FOOD: Bigger than the Plate, were cultured from human bacteria swabbed from celebrities.

Though most diners may prefer not to think about it, bacteria is an essential ingredient in many popular foods. Beer, bread, chocolate, and cheese all depend on microbes for their signature flavors. Scientists took this ick factor one step further by sourcing bacteria from the human body to make cheese for the new exhibit.

Smell researcher Sissel Tolaas and biologist/artist Christina Agapakis first conceived their human bacteria cheese project, titled Selfmade, in 2013. When a chef and team of scientists recreated it for the Victoria & Albert Museum, they found famous figures to donate their germs. Blur bassist Alex James, chef Heston Blumenthal, rapper Professor Green, Madness frontman Suggs, and The Great British Baking Show contestant Ruby Tandoh all signed up for the project.

A display of the human-microbe cheese at Victoria & Albert museum
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Once the celebrities' noses, armpits, and belly buttons were swabbed, their microbiome samples were used to separate milk into curds and whey. The curds were then pressed into a variety of cheeses: James's swab was used to make Cheshire cheese; Blumenthal's, comté; Professor Green's, mozzarella; Suggs's, cheddar; Tandoh's, stilton.

The cheeses are being sequenced in the lab to determine if they're safe for human consumption. But even if they don't contain any harmful bacteria, they won't be served on anyone's cheese plates. Instead. they're being kept in a refrigerated display at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Museum-goers can catch the cheeses and the rest of the items spotlighted in FOOD: Bigger Than the Plate from now through October 20, 2019.

The Reason Why We Pour Milk Over Cereal

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iStock.com/tomasworks

Sometimes, if a movie or television show wants to communicate how unusual a character is, they’ll depict them pouring a box of cereal into a bowl and then adding some kind of disgusting liquid—orange juice, water, coffee, possibly alcohol. This is an easy way to illustrate someone's eccentricity because everyone knows only milk goes in cold cereal. With no exceptions. Even warm milk, which a small number of individuals enjoy, has to be more palatable than the alternatives.

But is milk the acceptable choice for cereal because it’s the best, or because of something else? Is there a reason we don’t simply drown Frosted Flakes in water and call it a day?

The state of our cereal bowls can be traced to the origins of cereal itself. Back in the mid-1800s, Americans were enjoying very hearty breakfasts of bacon, eggs, meat, and other foods that could easily show up on their dinner plates. Many complained of gastrointestinal upset, a condition that health experts (many of them self-appointed) began to refer to as dyspepsia. This ill-defined malady was thought to be the result of consuming massive meals in the morning. Advocates argued that breakfast should be lighter and healthier, comprised of what they considered simple and easily digestible foods.

One such proselytizer was James Caleb Jackson, a vegetarian who ran a sanitarium called Our Home on the Hillside in Dansville, New York. At the time, sanitariums for health were considered retreats and a way to adopt healthier eating and exercise habits. Jackson was a follower of Reverend Sylvester Graham, the inventor of graham crackers and a man who believed the crackers could help curb sexual appetites that flamed in the meat-eating population. In the 1870s, Jackson began to market a product he called granula—graham flour that was baked, crumbled, and baked a second time. The tiny pebbles of flour were hearty and filling.

There’s some debate over whether it was Jackson or his mother, Lucretia, who actually came up with granula. In her son’s newsletters dating back to 1867, Lucretia published recipes for what amounted to the same thing. But whichever Jackson came up with it, there was a problem: Eaten dry, the granula was like trying to swallow construction rubble. In the newsletter, Lucretia cautioned that the cereal had to be soaked in milk or warm water, presumably to make it palatable. Other accounts of granula have consumers soaking it in milk overnight in order to make it chewable. People sometimes referred to it as “wheat rocks.”

Granula developed a following, but it wasn’t until another sanitarium owner named John Harvey Kellogg mimicked the recipe that it truly caught on. Kellogg, who owned the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, offered granula for its purported health benefits but referred to it as granola to avoid any legal entanglements with Jackson. By 1889, Kellogg was selling two tons of granola a week. By 1903, more than 100 cereal companies were operating out of Battle Creek. Kellogg, of course, became famous for his far more appealing Corn Flakes (which he invented because he thought they would curb masturbation).

Even as cereal became more processed and softer, the tendency to soak it in milk never left the public consciousness. Milk was the perfect way to add moisture to the dry food without turning it into a completely soggy mess. Like cereal, milk was also synonymous with health, full of vitamins and calcium. In a 1922 newspaper ad for Corn Flakes, Kellogg’s exhorted the wonders of the combination, offering that:

“With cold milk and luscious fresh fruit, Kellogg’s are extra delightful—so crisp, and appetizing.”

One scientific study published in the Journal of Food Science in 2011 even found that the fat in milk attached itself to the surface of cereal, helping to ward off moisture and keep cereal crunchier for longer than if it were immersed in water.

Of course, milk is no longer required to soften the bricks Lucretia and John Jackson were peddling. Culturally, we’re still predisposed to keeping milk and cereal part of a two-hand breakfast option. Had Lucretia advocated for coffee, orange juice, or something else, things might have turned out differently. And much soggier.

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