A Divertissement on the Doughnut Hole

July 12, 2010 at 10:41 am Leave a comment

Doughnuts: the dessert everyone hates to love. Rings of unrepentantly deep-fried batter, garishly frosted and sprinkled, and guaranteed to sink to the bottom of the gut like a scuttled Soviet-era submarine. If you will, they’re little life preservers which, with draughts of coffee, somehow save us from our miserable Monday mornings.

Doughnut dispensaries dot the landscape, of course. And whenever I pass one I always think of my mother, Peg Bracken, for two reasons:

First is the fact that she adored their curious counterparts, doughnut holes, whose creation has widely been credited to Mason Crockett Gregory back in 1847.  Apparently, the original doughnut was a solid cake. Gregory, a sea captain, requested that his cook remove the center so he could impale it on a spoke of the ship’s wheel when he needed to steer.  (One senses the invention of the cup holder soon followed.)  Gregory was quickly hailed as a visionary by doughnut makers because the cut-out made the product cook faster. Still, why they call them holes and not centers is beyond me. And it seems I digress.

The fact is my mother had a pretty sophisticated palate.  But when it came to dessert she’d tell you to keep the crème brûlée and back off on the Baked Alaska.  Sit her down with some doughnut holes and a glass of milk, and she was a happy camper.

The other reason doughnuts make me think of her is the widespread perversion of the name itself on signage, e.g., ‘donut.’  As a writer, Mom hated this sort of thing with a passion.  So, naturally, she found banners such as ‘donut shoppe’ doubly dreadful.  And I agree.  I mean, what’s the theory here?  Go déclassé by corrupting the spelling of the product?  Then use the Middle English form of the word “shop’ for an aura of authenticity?  That makes about as much sense as eating a handful of holes.


Entry filed under: I Hate to Cook Book. Tags: , , , .

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