Like most of the foods found on this list, the doughnut has a somewhat muddled history without a great deal of certainty about its history. When did doughnuts first come to the States? And who punched the first hole? The modern doughnut with a hole in the middle might just be an American innovation, but the cakes themselves were nothing new when they first hit North America thanks to Dutch immigrants settling into New Amsterdam — modern New York City. They brought with them their recipe for the olykoek, or "oily cake," and they've been contributing to our growing waistlines ever since.
The fried cakes continued in relative obscurity for centuries until Elizabeth Gregory, the mother of a 19th-century New England ship captain, fashioned a type of cake for her son to take on voyages. She would mix up the dough and place either a hazelnut or a walnut in the center where the dough didn't fully cook through. She gave them the rather literal name of doughnuts, and the name stuck. Her son, Captain Gregory takes the credit for putting a hole in the middle of the dough and later said he was responsible for "the first doughnut hole ever seen by mortal eyes." Some claimed he did this to keep the cake on the spoke of the ship's wheel while navigating, but never claimed such colorful details himself.
The doughnut became ingrained with American culture in the trenches of World War I, when millions of the tasty treats were served to the Yanks by volunteers who made them to help alleviate their homesickness. It wasn't until after the war that doughnuts really caught on with the invention of the first doughnut machine in 1920. From that point, the doughnut became much easier to produce, and shops sprouted up all over the country. The modern doughnut may have an American twist to it, but we can all thank the Dutch for bringing the delicious cakes to the New World.