The Other (sort of) White Meat
By R. D. Flavin

6-7-2013


     Time to Make the Bacon!  Today is National Donut Day, an annual salute begun in 1938 to honor the brave women of The Salvation Army who traveled to France and assisted the troops in World War I by handing out free doughnuts (and coffee, stationary, stamps, and took in some sewing on the side).  To coincide with the observance, Dunkin’ Donuts (est. 1950 in Quincy, MA) has chosen to introduce the Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich with bacon and pepper fried egg.  Perhaps it's true that “America runs on Dunkin',” but I'm unsure if Halal observing Saudi Arabia will be excited about the new menu item.  Israel had a fling with the Dunkin' from 1996 to 2001, but for over a decade the “Land of milk and honey” has been bereft of its sweet Westernization attempts.  Donuts and bacon?   Come on, what's not to like?  Huh?  Yahweh and Allah, two out of the three Abrahamic gods, said bacon is a no-no?  I wonder how long this selective prohibition against the other (sort of) white meat is going to last.

     The Mosaic ritual proscriptions against eating pig (Lev. 11:7-8, Deut. 14:8) may have been influenced by the ancient Egyptians who generally didn't consume pork ...because Horus got a black eye and when Ra (var. Re) looked at it, the injury took on the shape of a black pig.  So, for Horus' sake, many Egyptians avoid ham and bacon like the plague...  Hebrew scripture complains that the pig doesn't chew its cud like cows, sheep, and goats and infers that it's not to be trusted.  Some suggest that the animal eats more than its expected share of forageable pasture, there's hoary snicker about its rolling in its own “filth,” but the theory that pork resembles human flesh remains in mythopoeic play along with the “no taboo without its relaxation” clause.  We've long forsworn cannibalism, or a good many have I should qualify, and except for devout Jews, Muslims, some Buddhists, and veggie-folk, ...pretty much most of the planet eats pig.  Today, Hebrew scholars opt for sentimental tradition with keeping kosher (similar to the “Hey, it can't hurt!” approach by Catholics with regard to the belief in the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin), and with Glatt Kosher Park East Famous Turkey Bacon available (8 oz. for $8.99 + S&H), apparently tasty alternatives abound.

     So, in anticipation of a yummy repast, I ask, “Whence came the honored donut?”  As anthropologists continue to better understand and debate the origins of agriculture and whether bread or beer came first, all agree that over time cereal grains have been prepared in divers fashions motivated by necessity and assisted by ingenuity.  As different ingredients are tried and the latest cooking methods are explored, new varieties of sweet breads, cakes, and pastries continue to be introduced (alas, without Hostess Brands, Inc.).  Between the 14th and 16th centuries in Central and Eastern Europe many types of types of bread products were invented which were boiled before being baked (e.g. obwarzanck, baranka, and bublik), with the pre-1610 bajgiel or bagel becoming dietarily endeared to the Poles, Slavs, Germans, and among the Yiddish speaking communities.  Today, with or without cream cheese and lox (and red onion and tomato), the popularity of bagels continues to increase.  With the 2008 consumption of a Canadian bagel aboard the International Space Station, one can only wonder if NASA has any plans for bagels when we finally travel to Mars...  And, in reentry mode, at one point toward the end of the Enlightenment there arose the bane of police and dieters everywhere, ...the donut!

     Though ovens were in use some 20,000 years before the invention of agriculture and the exploitation of grains, sometimes one has to think outside of the 'oven' and at times needs demand frying over baking.  Such an occurrence took place in Northern Europe, England, and America with the diffusion of the premier fried dough confectionery, ...the donut!  Now, normally one would consult the Oxford English Dictionary and Wikipedia, do a hack rewrite, and move on, but the honored donut deserves better.  The OED credits the first printed usage of “dough-nut” to Washington Irving's 1809 quasi-satire, A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker, in a section on “tea-parties.”  And, Wikipedia teases with an 1808 short story mention of "fire-cakes and dough-nuts" along with an appeal to authority with 2008's Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut by Paul R. Mullins and the existence of an “1803 English volume which included doughnuts in an appendix of American recipes.”  That's all fine for visiting dilettantes, however it's not enough for a good dunkin'...

     The 1803 “appendix” is thought to be the translation of a portion of a Swedish work, Rural Oeconomy, perhaps part of an almanac, which was attached to a new edition of Susannah Carter’s The Frugal Housewife, or, Complete woman cook (originally published in London and Dublin in 1765 and in Boston in 1772 with illustrations by Paul Revere).  The 1803 "Appendix containing Several New Receipts Adapted to the American Mode of Cooking" was a New York publishing gimmick which was used two years later in a Virginian edition of Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy.  Swedish?  Well, okay, 1803 beats Irving's 1809, but several newspapers in New York ran pre-publication advertisements for Carter's cookbook with the printed words “Dough Nuts” in December of 1802.  Just sayin'...  Yet, the etymology of the doughnut or donut is far from complete and much more work is needed, in my humble opinion, particularly after a brief search turned up a 1791 opinion featurette complaining about the office of “Alderman” and “Dutch burgo masters” signed “DOUGH NUTS.”  That's “For the Daily Advertiser” in The Daily Advertiser (New York, New York), March 9, 1791; vol. VII, iss. 1888, p. 2 for completeness...  With and in respectful deference to both the OED and Prof. Mullins (anthropology, IUPUI/IU School of Liberal Arts), I'm thinking there's even earlier mentions yet to be discovered.



     Choosing plain over frosted, discussions of priority by and for the Dutch, Dutch-English, or Dutch-Americans are expected, as ultimately ...the “Yankee Cake” will satisfy most sweet tooths.  Irony presents itself with changing parlance as sometime in the mid-19th century (1847, if the claims of Hanson Gregory are to be believed) doughnuts began to be widely made in a ring or butt-cushion toroidal shape as they were originally ...balls of dough the size of an American half dollar coin which expanded somewhat as they fried.  With chicken or the egg ponderment, we question which came first, the doughnut or the so-called “doughnut-hole”?  I opine the hole is explicit by strict definitional interpretation, as 'dough' and 'nut' are both fine with PIE (as dheigh- or to knead and ken-, knu- and *knuk- as in nucleus) and the early doughnut was formed by pinching or cutting out the center of a flattened quantity of dough.  The “nut” or the best of the dough...  Someone, perhaps Gregory (or his mother), at some point decided to fry the frame and forgo the fancy.  It's been guessed that the hole facilitated a more even surface cooking...  In Finland the doughnut is called a munkki, that is a monk with the funny tonsure ringed haircut of the ascetic.  Pres. Kennedy's famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" comment has long been incorrectly interpreted contextually as meaning West Berlin in 1961 was cut-off and surrounded by Communist controlled East Germany and “Berliner” was synonymous with an encircled center.  The term predates World War II and simply denotes a style of filled pastry or Krapfen.  As far as connecting munkki with Munchkins and a monk from Munich eating a donut, I'd Baum if I went there...

     Flipping back to bacon, with the announcement of the First Annual Beer and Bacon Festival in Omaha, Nebraska on August 3, 2013 and the recent success of the Destination America Channel's The United States of Bacon television series, the People's Republic of China has announced plans to purchase Smithfield Foods Inc. of Virginia, the world’s largest pork producer for $4.7 billion.  One doesn't have to have a CE3K to understand that “This means something. This is important.”  China could have attempted dominance of the Canadian Bacon market, but instead went for the hams.  I don't know what this means for the future of pork bellies, but there are definitely some places I wouldn't trade for!

     Diets change as circumstances and whimsy dictate or allow.  For millennia the Hindus and the Jains of the Indian sub-continent have avoided eating beef and allow cows to freely roam their streets like bored tourists looking for a Kodak moment.  Reasons include the veneration of Kamadhenu, the Hindu goddess known as the “Mother of All Cows,” though to avoid accusations of bovine worship (à la Exod. 32:4 and the Golden Calf) an excuse that a live cow produces milk and dung for several years whereas a dead cow would only feed a family for a short time (depending on preservation methods) is often repeated.  Many Hindus regularly consume other animals such as goats, lambs, and chickens, but the ban on burgers has continued.  McDonald's, the American hamburger restaurant chain, operates over 120 stores throughout India, yet none of them serve hamburgers (and, out of respect for the Muslim Halal tradition, no pork products either).  But, horror vacui and beef will find a way, recently India has experienced an uptick of cattle rustling.  In the dark of the night thieves snatch the street cows and transport them to temporary illegal slaughterhouses where death meets dining.  The practice isn't precisely new, as Muslims enjoy a good steak from time to time, but it's now the Hindus themselves who are consuming beef.  The poor Hindus are starving and would sooner violate a religious custom than die of hunger, and the rich Hindus are beginning to turn their backs on tradition and open their minds and mouths to the wonder of wagyu.  All right, so wagyu is Japanese beef.  I could have inserted an abattoir alliteration...  Oops, I just did.

     With the Romans we encountered the maxim, De gustibus non est disputandum, and we would probably be best served if we dined elsewhere.  Today's National Donut Day with the new Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich with bacon and pepper fried egg is kinda' karmic with a closer reading of Washington Irving.

"Sometimes the table was graced with immense apple pies, or saucers full of preserved peaches and pears; but it was always sure to boast an enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog's fat, and called doughnuts, or olykoeks,—a delicious kind of cake, at present, scarce known in this city, excepting in genuine Dutch families, but which retains its pre-eminent station at tea-tables in Albany."

     Yeah, there's nothing like frying sweetened dough in bacon grease!  I'd bet dollars to donuts this is related to the origin of hush-puppies in some teensy-weensy way.  After all, it wasn't until 1911 that Proctor & Gamble started selling cottonseed oil as Crisco.  McDonald's cooked their (in)famous French fries in a mixture of 93% beef tallow and 7% cottonseed oil until 2001.  And, as once you go beef you never go back, McDonald's still uses a small amount of beef “flavoring” in the making or processing of their fries.  They're cooked in vegetable oil now, but knowing the beef is still there somehow makes it worthwhile.  Oh, who am I kidding; I've preferred fries from Burger King for... over a decade.  Right around the time McDonald's stopped using beef tallow.

     So, cashing out with the other (sort of) white meat, questions emerge as to how we end the Arab–Israeli (var. Jewish-Islamic) conflict and how do we get gross bacon to needed areas.  Maybe some type of Sino-Sinai connection?  A “We Are the World” sing-along of “I want my baby back, I want my baby back, I want my baby back, I want my baby back... Ribs!”?  One has to ask oneself, what would Homer Simpson “Mmmm...” to.


And although it's been said many times, many ways,
"Th-th-th-that's all folks!"
Rick

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