When entering donut territory it only makes sense that the question of whether or not donut holes - affectionately called Munchkins by Dunkin' - are necessary. We don't mean necessary in general, we mean necessary every time one picks up donuts. It seems that the two go hand in hand, quite literally, as one has been ceremoniously poked out from the other. There are even some people out there, we're sure, who would defend the donut hole over the actual donut... and there are some who would say they're definitely not wrong about it.
The biggest question everyone has in regard to donut holes (who are we kidding, who actually stops to ask questions before popping a few of these in their mouth?) is where, and how, and who created these tiny bites of joy? It's such a brilliant concept but it also begs the question of why not bagel holes? Or buttered-roll-holes? Why, specifically, do donuts get all the glory when it comes to having their middles cut out? The answer can be found on one ship, sailing to one New England port, during the mid-1800s. That's right... donut holes go back further than most of our oldest recipes.
One Ship Captain's Need To Create Something Great (And Edible)
His name was Captain Hanson Gregory, and rumor has it that the steering wheel of his ship helped to create the tiny treat we now know as the donut hole. It's hard to believe that donuts have been around since 1847 but considering that's when the holes, themselves, came to fruition, it can be surmised that actual donuts, or some form of them, date back even further than that. The sea captain was from Rockport, Maine, which we'll talk more about soon - because the town itself commemorates the occasion every year.
The story of how the donut hole came to be is one that's filled with holes... pun intended. The most interesting version of it, however, gives credit to Captain Gregory himself. It's said that during one sailing trip, the crew entered a storm; now, ordinarily, there would be nothing unusual about this. However, it was apparently a well-known fact that the captain enjoyed his donuts and often ate them on the ship. During that time, they were simply fried pieces of dough and were often rolled in cinnamon and other spices, not unlike the old-fashioned donuts we have today. During the storm that the crew encountered, many people claim that the captain stuck his donuts on the wheel of his ship so that he could gain control of it because, obviously, steering a ship takes two hands and that can't be done while holding onto a donut. Thus, the idea for the donut hole was born.
Another version of the story is far less amusing and involves the captain's mother, Elizabeth Gregory, who was the original baker of the said donuts. This version tells a tale of Mrs. Gregory discovering that the same dough could be rolled, deep-fried, and covered with nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon rind to add flavor. Allegedly, the name of the donut - originally spelled 'doughnut' - came from the walnuts used in the center of the dough to ensure that they cooked evenly.
While this doesn't account for the centerless donut that we know today, it sure is interesting to think about both of these stories that, when combined, make a complete retelling of the origin of the donut hole. There are other rumblings that have far simpler origins with some claiming that the donut was intentionally made smaller so that it was easier to digest, and others pointing fingers at the captain for being cheap with his ingredients, and packing smaller treats. While the true story of the donut might never be discovered, there's no doubt that the Gregory family had something to do with it and likely forever changed the manner in which crews ate donuts on ships.
Visiting Rockport, Maine And The Resting Place Of Captain Gregory
Those who go to Rockport now will be greeted with an awesome city but will also be in the birthplace of the creator of the donut hole.
For those who really want to get an in-depth feel for this confection's creation, the gravestone of Captain Gregory can be found not far from the Lutheran church that maintains the site. The stone was erected in his birthplace on the 100th anniversary of the donut hole, with a plaque dedicated to him and the creation of the donut.