How Doughnuts Became a Beloved American Treat

GMVozd/iStock via Getty Images
GMVozd/iStock via Getty Images / GMVozd/iStock via Getty Images

During World War I, doughnuts became as American as apple pie. Volunteers with the Salvation Army wanted to make pastries to serve to the troops, and since heating oil in a cast-iron pan was easier than procuring ovens on the battlefield, doughnuts quickly became their go-to treat.

These so-called "Doughnut Lassies" made eating fried dough feel patriotic, but doughnuts weren't always viewed that way in the U.S. Throughout the 19th century, olykoeks—or "oily cakes"—were thought of as Dutch immigrant cuisine. Prior to that, cakes fried in oil were enjoyed by ancient Greeks, Jews, Romans, and Native Americans.

In the latest episode of Food History, we dig into the doughnut's decadent past. From its prehistoric origins to its domination over coffee shops today, the item has earned the distinction of being one of the most popular sweet treats on Earth.

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