Food history is a notoriously difficult subject. Recipes can travel haphazardly so trying to ascertain where a given food originated is often a futile exercise. The Island's claim to the doughnut rests mainly on two pieces of 19th century evidence: publication of the 'Isle of Wight Doughnut' recipe and a paragraph in a book, The Queen's Isle, in which the author says "...doughnuts are peculiar to the Island...". This evidence certainly suggests the Island was the first place in Britain to experience something called a doughnut, but does it show the recipe was independently developed here?
Some people point out the Island doughnut recipe is virtually identical to the Dutch oliebollen. American food historians claim Dutch settlers introduced the oliebollen to America in the 17th century, long before the doughnut was recorded here. Could the common name 'doughnut' arise independently both sides of the Atlantic? Others are even more sceptical, claiming the doughnut is too simple a product to have been 'invented'. They suggest it merely arose out of using up odd pieces of spare dough, perhaps as a variation on the medieval 'fritter'. The doughnut may be as old as dough itself.
Anybody who has sampled the Island doughnut recipe will know it lacks the soft 'doughy' texture of the retail version. Today's retail doughnuts are probably made from a commercial mix but many can remember the considerable range of doughnuts once available from Island bakers. It is the 'doughy' doughnut that can now be found in bakeries from Argentina to Austria. Some feel an investigation into the source of this product would provide more interesting research.