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In praise of... doughnuts

Let’s be honest: they’re full of fat, sugar and are deep-fried.

Perfect for the Scottish diet then? Except they’re scoffed all over the world and come in a huge variety. The humble doughnut has been around for a long time and, despite pursuit by the health police, shows no sign of diminishing in popularity.

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According to some reports, the first cookery book to mention these sweetest of treats was a volume in 1803. Today, even the top chefs have their own ideas for the perfect recipe, though the basics are the same – flour, butter, sugar, eggs. Mind you, some people throw in all sorts of odd ingredients, including mashed spuds and soured cream.

They are munched all around the world and come in many guises. Iranians tuck into zoolbia and bamiyeh, a type of doughnut that comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and, as if not sugary enough, coated in syrup. In Tunisia, a delight akin to doughnuts is the yo-yo. In Africa, in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea, they drool over lagaymat. In Israel, jam doughnuts are known as sufganiyah.

In Austria, doughnuts are – rather unfortunately for English speakers – krapfen. Up in Finland, the locals go ape for munkki. In parts of Germany, the doughnut is called a Berliner. Who can forget President John F Kennedy’s famous 1963 speech in which he thundered: “Ich bin ein Berliner”? Still, we know what he meant.

What is known is that the first doughnut cutter was patented in America on this day in 1872 by mariner John Blondel. He wanted a hole in his snack so he could stick it on the ship’s wheel while sailing. Another account, however, attributes that foresight to an earlier American sailor named Hansen Gregory in 1847. Perhaps, but he failed to register the patent.

Whoever invented them, whatever we call them, whether they have fillings or toppings and whatever the shape, the bottom line is that they are totally unhealthy and utterly delicious.

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