It’s not always easy to trace a dish’s ancestry, especially given how frequently new information about historical dining customs is being discovered by researchers, as reported by Daily Mail.
We know, for instance, that neanderthals were eating ground beans, lentils, and peas far earlier than historians had previously believed, thanks to recent excavations of prehistoric caves in contemporary Greece and Iraq. In a similar vein, a 2012 study reported by National Geographic claimed that popcorn consumption may have started roughly 2,000 years earlier in Peru than previously thought.
Although it is safe to establish that the doughnut was not a staple of the Stone Age, its origins are equally mysterious. You may receive a range of responses regarding the precise origins of the fried treat, depending on whom you ask and where in the world you are. We’ll focus on New York City because it provides the most straightforward proof of early doughnut activity.
Doughnuts by way of Denmark
The doughnut arrived in the United States via immigration from other countries, just like so many foods we consider to be traditionally American (such as apple pie, which according to Atlas Obscura may have its roots in 17th-century England). According to Thrillist, Mrs Anna Joralemon of Denmark opened the first documented doughnut store on Broadway in New York City in 1673, just 50 years after the foundation of the city. The golden age of doughnuts didn’t start until a few decades later, which may or may not have anything to do with the fact that Mrs. Joralemon’s fried delicacies were referred to in Smithsonian Magazine as “olykoeks,” or “oily cakes.”
The mother of a mid-19th century ship captain is credited with giving the dish its more appetising name. She is said to have added nutmeg and cinnamon from her son’s spice cargo to her signature dough, placed a walnut or hazelnut in the centre, and fried it to golden perfection, allegedly giving rise to the term. However, according to Thrillist, Washington Irving’s 1809 “History of New York” was the first book to ever contain the phrase “doughnut,” at least according to official archives.
A welcome treat at Ellis Island
A czarist Russian immigrant who had fled the city was the first to introduce a doughnut machine to the city in 1920, capitalising on New Yorkers’ newly discovered love of the fried confection. According to Smithsonian, “hungry theatrical crowds spurred him to create a device that cranked out the delectable rings faster.” This completely changed the situation for the sweet treat, and doughnuts were soon added to the list of traditional foods from the Empire State. In actuality, immigrants were welcomed with a doughnut and a blanket when they arrived on Ellis Island in 1921. Frederick Wallis, the immigration commissioner, is pictured alongside the Salvation Army delivering doughnuts to newly arrived immigrants in a 1920s photograph from New York.
Decades later, immigrants coming into New York Harbor received the same gift. Hershel Greenblat, who immigrated to the island as a child in the 1940s via the Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic, remarked, “I remember the first time I’d ever tasted a doughnut.” “I still recall the doughnuts.”
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Source: Daily Mail