Foodie News

National Donut Day's hidden secret: Uncovering the real history of the donut

National Donut Day's real secret: Uncovering the donut's true history

Austin Poll:Donuts_shipleys
It comes but once a year . . . Friday is National Donut Day. Courtesy photo
Oliebol Dutch donut
Is the Dutch oliebol the missing link in the American donut's mysterious beginnings? Courtesy of Wikipedia
Austin Poll:Donuts_shipleys
Oliebol Dutch donut

Once a year, Americans set aside their culinary differences to rally behind one of the country's most celebrated pastries . . . that right, it's National Donut Day.

Interestingly, the origins of the American donut remain draped in mystery.

Growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, I remember locals valiantly insisting that the Amish fasnacht was the nation's first donut. Then there's the zeppole popular with Italian immigrants, the Polish pączki found throughout the upper Midwest and, of course, the Gulf Coast beignet.

 It's the humble oliebol — a fried dumpling brought by early Dutch colonists — that most food historians highlight as the donut's most likely forebear.  

But it's the humble oliebol — a fried dumpling brought by early Dutch colonists — that most food historians highlight as the donut's most likely forebear. 

CultureMap intern and Amsterdam native Jan-Pieter Zuiderveen says he can understand the comparison.

"Really, they're two separate things. Donuts are very airy compared to the oliebol, which is heavy," he explains, describing the oliebol (pronounced like "oily bowl") as something closer to what Americans might consider a fritter. Raisins or currants are often mixed into the fried dough, which is eventually topped with powdered sugar.

"The oliebol is only eaten around Christmas and New Year's. People eat donuts all the time in the States. Personally, I like this American tradition of people bringing them to work once a week or so."

As far as uncovering the donut's missing link, Zuiderveen remains unconvinced. For now he says he's enjoying Shipley Donuts while he can . . . and hitting up Galveston's Home Cut Donuts for an old school donut-eating experience he calls almost "stereotypically Texan and American."