Fill Your Holes: It’s National Doughnut Day!

Doughnuts (AP Images/Dunkin' Donuts)

Doughnuts (AP Images/Dunkin’ Donuts)

So today is the day everyone gets together to celebrate that little ring of happiness that makes the mid-morning bearable. The doughnut, or donut, or d’n’t has been a firm fixture of faces since the mid-1800s, having been invented by a Mr. Hanson Gregory on a lime ship at the age of 16.

Or they were brought to the Americas by Dutch settlers, who called them oliekoek—oily cake—because of the way they were cooked. Or they were invented years before that, and listed in an English cookbook under the name dow nuts.

Whatever the provenance, if you’re going to celebrate Doughnut Day the way the British would (they don’t, since you ask, but if they did and you were), you’re going to need to fill your hole. And not the one at the bottom of your face.

That’s because the most popular form of doughnut sold in the U.K. is the one with jelly in it. It’s the one that looks like a nut, and in fact in parts of Scotland the term doughnut only refers to the jam or custard-filled balls, with the term doughring being used for the sort of chocolate and frosting version beloved of Homer Simpson.

Incidentally, that type of doughnut is also referred to in Northern Ireland as a gravy ring. Something to do with gravy being an old term for the oil used in cooking (although nailing that down is harder than finding a reliable origin myth for doughnuts in the first place).

That’s not to say you can’t get ring doughnuts in the U.K. Quite apart from franchises of Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts, and supermarket brands, they’re a staple of street markets and fairgrounds, as it’s hard to inject the jam while the waltzer is pounding away behind you. What they don’t then do is bother with glaze or sprinkles. Just a dip in sugar, or a dollop of melted chocolate sauce, will more than suffice.

Then there are Yum Yums. These are made with doughnut dough, but stretched and twisted, forming a rope-like pattern, then fried and glazed. Doughropes was presumable too hard to say, so they settled on something onomatopoeic and suggestive of good times ahead.

Yum Yums (Pic: Wikipedia)

Yum Yums (Pic: Wikipedia)

I’ve also heard it said that some places in Britain sell jelly doughnuts with mincemeat in them—the black raisiny jam inside mince pies—but I’ve never seen it firsthand. Believe me, I would remember having to buy extra big trousers after making that discovery.

So, by all means plow through a box of Krispy Kremes, demolish those Dunkin’ Donuts doughnuts. If you want to pretend to be British, you need some jelly in your hole (and you must do that eating competition where you’re not allowed to lick the sugar off your lips until the whole thing is finished). That is how we roll.

And if that seems a bit of a tough ask, just be glad this isn’t Finlandophenia, as the Fins not only leave the hole out, they fill the middle with meat.

Mmm… meat.

See more:
Five Foods the British Only Consume Once a Year
WATCH: 9 British Dishes Everyone Should Try
5 British Soft Drinks That Americans Should Try
Easter Is Coming: Let’s Make a Simnel Cake

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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