Food-Drink

Half a Dozen Things You Didn't Know About Doughnuts

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There isn't much anybody needs to know about doughnuts. As long as they're sweet, delicious and readily available, most of us humans are happy.

But on a day like National Doughnut Day, we tend to crave something more substantial — and no, we're not talking about cinnamon buns or eclairs. We get hungry for a little history.

With that in mind, we've picked out half a dozen of the tastiest facts we could find about America's preferred pastry:

#1. There seem to be two National Doughnut Days: the first is celebrated on the first Friday in June, while a second lesser-known observance takes place in early November. The first (in June) was declared in 1938 by the Salvation Army to honor the volunteers, or "Dough Lassies," who made and served doughnuts to troops fighting during the first World War. The origins of November's Doughnut Day are more obscure, with some saying it began as part of a bakery's Veterans Day promotion, and others writing that a hungry Vietnam POW named Orson Swindle convinced his captors that November 10th was a huge holiday (National Doughnut Day), which surprisingly resulted in the jailers ordering everybody sticky buns.

#2. In a 2014 study, a real estate website determined that doughnut shops were probably the in all of Massachusetts. Furthermore, there are far more Dunkin Donuts locations per capita in Massachusetts than any other state, with Slate.com estimating one location for every 6,500 people. That said, the Boston news affiliate that recently described this Dunkin Donuts truck as "the most Boston thing ever" is probably right on the money:

#3. The earliest cakey pastries to resemble doughnut were spherical rather than ring-shaped (see oliekoeks, or oliebollen, below). It's unclear exactly when rings became popular, but, by his own account, a New England sailor named Hanson Crockett Gregory claims that he originated the idea. As the story goes, he cut the center from his mother's doughnuts (she packed them for him and his shipmates) because the dough was still raw in the middle. He returned home with the idea, and the ring became a thing.

#4. On New Year's Eve In the Netherlands, the Dutch traditionally eat oliebollen, or small doughnuts studded with dried fruit. The tradition of eating oliebollen (literally "oil balls") is thought to have originated with early Germanic tribes as a way to ward off the pagan goddess Perchta, who would fly through the skies during Yule and slice open the bellies of disobedient tribespeople. Anyone who had eaten oliebollen, however, was spared, as Perchta's sword would slide off their full, greasy bellies.

#5. Before Clark Gable did it in the 1934 film "It Happened One Night," the practice of dunking doughnuts into coffee wasn't very widespread. (It's rumored to have first gained popularity within celebrity circles after silent actress Mae Murray dropped a doughnut into her coffee at Lindy's in New York.) In fact, in that same year, comedian Red Skelton developed an entire routine based around the different ways people dunk their doughnuts, which he would later perform in the 1938 film "Having Wonderful Time":

#6. Speaking of dunking, etiquette expert Emily Post publicly declared her distaste for the practice in 1941, writing that it's "as bad an example of table manners as can be found." She did, however, offer an alternative: "Drop a mouthful at a time into the coffee and then lift it to your mouth with the spoon." (Even still, she insists this wouldn't be proper manners. "It's only better than worst," she wrote.)