August 06, 2003

The Un-Sugar-Coated Truth About Doughnuts


From Reuters News Service:
"Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (KKD) is moving to Europe in October, opening a doughnut "factory" at London's upscale Harrods department store, the company said Tuesday. "

From the Vancouver Sun:
"We've hooked them on premium coffee, fancy bagels and gourmet cookies. Now Britain appears ready to swallow another North American delicacy -- doughnuts."

Overheard on CNN Headline News:
"I know you probably expect British people just to drink tea, but no, apparently coffee is growing increasingly popular over there." (not a verbatim quote, but definitely the gist of it)

Okay, let's get a couple of things straight, here.

1) Hard though this may be to believe for all you North Americans who think you created the world, not everything comes from your part of the world. "We've hooked them on premium coffee . . . another North American delicacy"?!?! Let me tell you something about the history of coffee. It was discovered in Ethiopa, in Africa (you know, that big continent on the OTHER SIDE OF THE ATLANTIC?), and from there moved to Arabia in the 1200s, and on to Europe in the 1500s. Coffee didn't even reach South America until the 1700s.

Over three hundred years before Starbucks even opened its doors, coffee houses were all the rage in Europe, and by 1730, London had over 500 of them (which works out at about one coffee house for every 1400 people in London at the time-- compare that to modern day New York City, where there is only one coffee house, at my best estimate, for every 20,000 people). And espresso, the mainstay of Starbucks' business? It was invented in 1901 in Italy. So let's not fuck around here: coffee is not a North American delicacy (fun fact: the Japanglish term for 'weak coffee' is "American coffee").

What else? Oh, bagels. There is some debate about the origin of bagels but-- and this, I feel, is a cogent point-- all of the possible birthplaces of bagels are in Eastern Europe. Harry Lender, the man widely credited with bringing bagels to mainstream America, was Polish. And cookies? Even the word 'cookie' comes from a Dutch word ('koekje') meaning 'little cake'. The first American cookie was brought to the country by (oh, and this is going to kill you) English immigrants!

And doughnuts, the fatty little things that started me on this rant? They're also from Holland, originally-- although, credit where credit's due, it was the Americans (finally did something, huh?) who coined the word 'doughnut', and first made them with holes in the middle.

2) It's not like we don't already have doughnuts in Britain, it's just that, you know, we already have enough trouble with heart disease without eating little chunks of fried, oily dough on a regular basis. In fact, there are already two doughnut stores in the heart of downtown London, and pretty much every supermarket in Britain sells doughnuts. So let's not pretend that just because we don't wolf down doughnuts in bulk, we don't eat them at all.

3) "I know you probably expect British people to drink tea"?! Give me a break! If I ever see that news anchor on the street I want to give her a good slap. Talk about perpetuating stereotypes. Although the average person in the UK does conusme around 4 cups of tea per day, that's really very little compared to Paraguay, which, according to the Guiness Book of Records, has an average tea consumption of 14.62 cups per person per day. And what's more, almost 85% of North Americans drink tea regularly, compared to Britain (according to one source), where the figure is not quite 80%.

Right, well. I'm glad we got that cleared up.

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