Let’s talk doughnuts. Which do you fancy– cake or raised? Powdered, cinnamon sugar, glazed, chocolate dipped, or frosted?
Though in the past I’ve dallied with lemon-filled, jelly, maple glazed, vanilla iced with sprinkles, and even (gasp!) gotten a bit risqué with a warm cruller or two, my true loyalty lies with the plain glazed ring doughnut, the fresher and softer the better. I live for that moment when you take that first luscious bite and the glaze cracks a bit, sometimes sticking to the edges of your mouth. Mmmmmm!
Now, tell me. For all the times you’ve eaten a ring-shaped doughnut, have you ever wondered who invented the hole? Thanks to The Hole Story of the Doughnut by Pat Miller and Vincent X. Kirsch, we surprisingly learn that a teenager with a knack for creative problem solving was actually responsible, and that his “aha” moment took place on the high seas!
His name was Hanson Crockett Gregory, a native of Rockport, Maine. He went to sea as a cabin boy aboard the schooner Isaac Achorn when he was just 13. He quickly rose in the ranks on various vessels as a cook’s assistant and ship rigger before captaining a cargo schooner and speedy clipper. Queen Isabella II of Spain even awarded him a medal for heroism for the daring rescue of seven sailors.
But even daring rescues can’t compete with doughnuts when it comes to securing a place in culinary history. At age 16, Hanson was busy working as a cook’s assistant aboard the Ivanhoe. One day in June 1847, he and the cook were preparing breakfast for the crew, the same breakfast they served every morning: coffee and fried cakes. Hanson formed the balls of sweetened dough while the cook dropped them into a cauldron of hot lard.
When the cakes were fried, Hanson dumped them out on the dining table. They were sweet and crisp — at least around the edges. Their raw centers, heavy with grease, made them drop like cannonballs in the stomach. Sailors called them SINKERS.
Raw centers? Heavy with grease? Not very appetizing. Hanson thought to use the round lid of a tin pepper can to cut holes into the center of each sinker before frying them. The cook thought he was crazy, but the sailors loved the cakes — for once, they were brown, sweet, and evenly cooked! Hooray!
Hanson shared his invention with his mother, who whipped up large batches to sell in a friend’s shop and on the docks to hungry sailors. Everyone loved those “holey cakes” and Hanson’s invention rapidly spread around the world.
Kids will thoroughly enjoy this toothsome tale, which will of course make them want to devour some doughnuts immediately. Miller’s captivating narrative and Kirsch’s charming and inventive cartoony illustrations will whisk them away on this tasty mid 19th century seafaring adventure.
Kirsch’s clever use of the round motif — creating doughnut “holes” by cutting out the centers of his zesty watercolors and placing them on facing pages — amplifies the theme and makes every page turn a delight. From the ship’s portholes to the lifesavers to the curlicues of the waves to the wide open circular mouths and googly eyes of the hungry sailors, we are invited to feast our eyes and bask in pure doughnutty joy.
But there’s more. Miller also relates a couple of alternate legends that grew up around the hole business. One involves Captain Gregory impaling a sinker on one of the steering wheel spokes during a storm, and the other cites Captain Gregory’s attempt to prevent sailors from drowning after eating heavy sinkers for breakfast (if they were swept overboard they’d sink like stones). Yes, sailors do love their riveting yarns!
Like sweet icing on a cake doughnut, Miller also mentions an actual 1916 interview with Captain Gregory that appeared in the Patriot Ledger. He was amused by all the fuss over his doughnut doings and joked that he had invented “the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes.” An Author’s Note, Timeline and Bibliography top off this delectable read (best to stock up on doughnuts beforehand). Pretty certain you’ll fall for it book, line and sinker.🙂
🍩 NUTS FOR DOUGHNUTS 🍩
The Alphabet Soup kitchen helpers were of course drooling throughout the entire book. How does one remain calm when reading lines like, “The aroma of browning sugar rose as the cook dropped in the first blobs of dough”?
Mr Cornelius and Hoppy Vanderhare, in particular, couldn’t wait to fry up a batch of mini doughnuts for their hungry little friends. The minis were tricky to handle with paws, but they managed a box full of powdered, chocolate dipped, chocolate dipped with sprinkles, and cocoa. Small in size, big on flavor!
As soon as word got out that doughnuts were on the menu, they were joined by two French sailors who were thrilled about the new book. Seems they met Hanson Gregory when he stopped in Marseilles back in 1851. He shared a batch of his mother’s doughnuts with them and they’ve loved him ever since (when it comes to furry creatures, donut believe everything they say).
A ring of discerning doughnut lovers then decided to hold a round table summit. The hole group claimed they knew Hanson Gregory too (boy, did that guy get around)!
It is now your civic duty to eat at least one doughnut this week. Since Friday is actually National Doughnut Day, you have the perfect excuse. In honor of this charming book, no need to share. Go ahead and eat the hole thing.😀
THE HOLE STORY OF THE DOUGHNUT
written by Pat Miller
illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch
published by HMH, May 2016
Picture Book Biography for ages 6-9, 40 pp.
*Junior Library Guild Selection*
♥ Check out Pat Miller’s behind-the-scenes timeline for the book at Rate Your Story.
♥ Read how Pat got the inspiration for the story in her GROG interview.
This post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food related posts. Put on your best aprons and bibs, and come join the fun!
*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2016 Pat Miller, illustrations © 2016 Vincent X. Kirsch, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.