“As you go through life make this your goal: Watch the doughnut, not the hole.” Today, we honor those brave heroes who dedicated their lives and clogged arteries to bring us the Great American Doughnut. Known originally by Dutch immigrants “olykoeks,” or “oily cakes,” the quintessentially American treat was brought to the masses by a rags to riches Russian refugee (who we either thank or consider dangerous from a cardiology perspective), World War I soldiers (and the women who voluntarily delivered doughnuts to the front lines), Clarke Gable (who gave a damn about how to dunk properly), Depression era French bakers (Krispy Kreme), World War II soldiers (is there anything those guys can’t take credit for?), Irving Berlin (more immigrants!), and some fossilized remains of Native American kitchens.
After a long journey through that somehow began with a Dutch sea captain and his mother in the mid-1800’s, their Doughbutante Ball came during the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago, where doughnuts were billed as “the food hit of the Century of Progress.” Seeing them produced “automatically” somehow made them part of the wave of the future. A doughnut cost less than a nickel, manageable even during the Depression. In the 1934 film It Happened One Night, rugged newspaperman Clark Gable actually has to teach runaway heiress Claudette Colbert how to dunk. “Dunking’s an art. 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.”
To bolster downtrodden folk during the pre-war years of the Depression, Washington D.C.’s Capitol Theatre served doughnuts with a kind of doily (eventually and oily doily) that read, “As you go through life make this your goal: Watch the doughnut, not the hole.”
For more on this holiest of days (see what I did there), refer to the canon of doughnut history from the Smithsonian Institution.