Ah, the ubiquitous donut. The guilty pleasure is, at the same time, the most reviled snack by doctors and professional trainers because of its extreme fat content and beloved by people everywhere because, let’s face it, it tastes so damned good.

Donuts in some form or another have been around forever. Archaeologists have dug up fossilized bits of what look like donuts in prehistoric Native American settlements. But what we now know as the “donut” or “doughnuts” (if you prefer) reportedly came to the New World in Manhattan (then still New Amsterdam) under the Dutch name of olykoeks — “oily cakes.”

But did you know that the first donut with a hole was invented in New England, by a ship’s captain and his mother?

The legend has it that a woman named Elizabeth Gregory used to make those delicious little “fat-bombs” for her son, a ship’s captain named Hanson Gregory of Rockport, Maine. 

She would concoct her snacks by deep-frying dough and rolling it in nutmeg, cinnamon, and lemon rind. The term “doughnut” came from her practice of putting hazelnuts or walnuts in the center, where the dough might not cook all the way through.

Some claim that the captain speared one of his mom’s cakes on the ship’s wheel, during a storm, so not to lose it. Yet, the holes in donuts became more prevalent because of a more practical reason: As mentioned, the fried dough would not cook all the way in the center. So, while the outside edges were done perfectly, there would be raw dough in the middle. That is where the grease and excess oil would pool turning the donut into an indigestion bomb waiting to happen — hence the Dutch name.

Gregory was interviewed by the Boston Post in 1916 and gave his take on his place in history.

“I guess it was about ’47, when I was 16, that I was aboard the ship and discovered the hole which was later to revolutionize the doughnut industry… Now in them days we used to cut the doughnuts into diamond shapes, and also into long strips, bent in half, and then twisted.”