Today’s Dictionary.com Word of the Day comes to us from the Dutch. It is “olykoek” which translated means, “oily cake” or “oil cookie”. Here in the US we would simply call one of these fried confections a donut. I would imagine this is today’s word because today is, in fact, National Donut Day here is the US.
According to Dictionary.com olykoek is an Americanism with roots in New York Dutch. It is formed on the basis of the Dutch oliekoek meaning “oilseed cake,” equivalent to olie, “oil” plus koek, “cake.”
Wikipedia offers additional insight into this word. Olykoek has gone through several evolutions trading popularity with a similar term oliebol or olybollen, translated “oily ball(s)”, depending on which dictionary one consulted at a particular point in history. In fact, “the 1868 edition of the Van Dale dictionary included the word obiebol, while its rival Woordenboek der Nederlansche taal didn’t include it until 1896, stating that the “oliekoek” is a more commonly used term.” And yet another shift occurred in the early twentieth century when oliebol once again became the popular term.
At any rate, olykoeks have been featured in fine art and literature, most notably, Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It seems Ichabod was more enraptured with the sight of sweet Dutch pastries than he was of beautiful voluptuous maidens encountered in Van Tassel’s parlor! Here’s an excerpt:
“Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world of charms that burst upon the enraptured gaze of my hero, as he entered the state parlor of Van Tassel’s mansion. Not those of the bevy of buxom lasses with their luxurious display of red and white, but the ample charms of a genuine Dutch country tea-table in the sumptuous time of autumn. Such heaped up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds, known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tender oly koek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller, sweet cakes and short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes and the whole family of cakes.” Such lovely words!!!
There is also a wonderful legend surrounding this origin of this word. From Wikipedia:
“They (oliebollen) are said to have been first eaten by Germanic tribes in the Netherlands during the Yule, the period between December 26 and January 6 where such baked goods were used. The Germanic goddess Perchta, together with evil spirits, would fly through the mid-winter sky. To appease these spirits, food was offered, much of which contained deep-fried dough. It was said Perchta would try to cut open the bellies of all she came across, but because of the fat in the oliebollen, her sword would slide off the body of whoever ate them.”
Quite an interesting word. As for me, I will likely stick to the familiar term for this pastry, the “donut” or as we say here in Virginia, another word synonymous with the olykoek…the irresistible “Crispy Kreme”!
Here are a few Haiku on the Olykoek:
The Olykoek Haiku
Dutch oily balls and cakes
deep-fried dough doused in sugar
not just a donut!
When Yuletide is nigh
stuff yourselves with olykoeks
to outwit Perchta.
kat – 3 June 2016