The doughnut is the much maligned dessert and guilty pleasure of the modern world (loaded with sugar, fat, partially hydrogenated oils, sodium, and cholesterol, packing 250-300 calories) introduced in America by early Dutch settlers that arrived in the Hudson River valley in the early 1600s. The Dutch settlers didn’t mince words with respect to this tasty dessert; they called a doughnut what it was — an “oliekoek” (or “olykoek”) which is Dutch for “oil cake.” Although the term “doughnut” first appeared in a short story printed in 1808, American author and historian Washington Irving is credited for introducing the term in his satirical history of New York titled A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty (1809) writing under the pseudonym of Diedrich Knickerbocker. Irving’s description certainly doesn’t make them sound appetizing: “balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called doughnuts, or olykoeks.” The original spelling of doughnuts stuck until the early 1900s, when the variant spelling, “donut,” was introduced by a short story written by George Peck and the invention of an automated machine by the Display Doughnut Machine Corporation. No matter how its spelled, the American Heart Association doesn’t want you eating oil cakes.
For further reading: The Diner’s Dictionary by John Ayto, Oxford University Press (2012).
The Handy Answer Book for Kids and Parents by Judy Galens and Nancy Pear, Visible Ink (2002).
Diedrich Knickerbocker’s History of New York by Washington Irving, Easton Press (1980).