Comments & Curiosities: The magical dollar-maker with a hole

November 27, 2010|By Peter Buffa

You've heard them a thousand times — cops and doughnut jokes.

"Need a cop? Try a Winchell's."

"How does a police sergeant know his people are taking too many breaks? Their eyes are glazed."

Go ahead and tease Costa Mesa Police Officer Jess Gilman about the doughnut thing all you want. He's heard it all before and he has some great cops and doughnuts lines of his own.

That's because in his free time Gilman is the proud proprietor of Gilman's Donuts, a donut shop on wheels that has become a fixture at Newport-Mesa sporting events and fundraisers. Gilman sells mini-doughnuts by the bag from his squeaky-clean cart and when he says they are hot and fresh, it's no joke.


You can watch them being shaped, cooked and sprinkled on the spot, ready to please your palate and annoy your cardiologist. It's all done with an automatic mixer-shaper-fryer-thing from a Minneapolis company called Lil' Orbits. Get it? Mini-donuts? Lil' Orbits? It's like a joke.

It is fascinating to watch — the birth of a mini-donut before your eyes. The Lil' Orbits website explains how it all works.

"Doughnuts to dollars … the aroma attracts 'em … the action fascinates 'em."

Gilman, who was recently profiled by the Orange County Register, would advise people to not get too caught up in the doughnuts to dollars part, though. It's his passion, but it's really a labor of love. If you're planning on making a fortune selling mini-donuts at high school football games, you need another plan. But people love Gilman and his magic doughnut machine, which is more than enough reward for him.

But here is my question: Who started the whole doughnut thing, which is not to be confused with the doughnut hole thing, anyway? And did whoever it was have any idea what they started? Probably not. Even though some people live for things like doughnuts and buffalo wings, nailing down who actually churned out the first one ever is hard.

Americans eat, munch, devour and otherwise consume about 10 billion doughnuts a year, which comes to about 30 doughnuts per annum for every American — which is a lot of doughnuts. Can anyone legitimately claim to be the mother, or father, cousin maybe, of the doughnut?

After extensive research at the BBBBBMI — the Better Buffa Bureau of Banal Bits of Meaningless Information — the answer appears to be no. The problem is that people have been frying sweetened batter in oil about as long as there have been people and oil, which is a long time.

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