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DoughnutsThe true origin of today's doughnut is among the most colourful of old, tall tales of the sea. Historians agree the doughnut originated with Hanson Crockett Gregory, a sea captain of Rockport, Maine. One version of the story tells how his crew encountered a terrible storm. While this fierce tempest raged, the ship's cook appeared bringing popular fried Dutch cakes to Gregory as he fought to keep his vessel on an even course. Then a giant wave struck and the vessel lurched precariously.

As it caught the crew off guard, Gregory slammed his cake down onto the spoke of the ship's wheel. When order was restored and the cake removed it had a hole through the middle. The central portion, which was sometimes (reputedly) soggy, had gone.

An alternative account names Gregory as the Captain of the good ship Frypan. In this version a number of his crew had eaten fried cakes to excess. Indeed the sailors were so sated that several fell overboard and drowned. Gregory was devastated. The fried cakes were banned. All agreed they were too heavy. In his anger the distraught captain poked holes in all the remaining cakes. Now they were not only lighter, but they resembled life preservers.

Whichever incident is closer to the facts, Gregory made his findings public and Maine seamen enjoyed the cakes with the holes. Ninety four years later (1941), a great debate was held in New York's grand Hotel Astor. Among its principle speakers was Gregory's descendant, F E Crocket of Camden, Maine. He threw cold water on the seagoing invention stories, pointing out that Captain H C Gregory was a mere fifteen year old when both events were said to have occurred. Were the dates wrong? Or was F E Crocket right? He believed that Hanson had simply told his mother to remove the centre of her fried cakes to rid them of the soggy bit in the middle.

Another delegate, Chief High Eagle, a Wampanoag tribesman, said his people created the doughnut when several of their arrows missed settlers, striking Pilgrim's cakes instead. In 1872 John Blondel of Thomaston, Maine, took out a patent on a spring loaded doughnut hole machine and by the Great War doughnuts were so popular that the Salvation Army sent them to American troops. Mass production began with a machine introduced by a Bulgarian immigrant; Arnold Levitt in 1921. After World War Two , Levitt founded the Donut Corporation of America.

As for Captain Gregory, a plaque was installed at his birthplace in 1947.

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