Northern Why

You Can Snack On The Swedish Nightingale at H-E-B

Why are Texas grocery stores selling doughnuts named for a 19th century opera singer?

By Joanna O'Leary June 21, 2017

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What’s a good way to memorialize one of the more prolific female opera singers of the 19th century? Apparently, name a doughnut after her.

During a recent trip to H-E-B, I felt more disoriented than usual in the bakery section by the selection of baked goods on offer. Usually my confusion can be attributed to being out of touch with my own cravings (“I came here for cake...But I like pie, too...And those cookies look good...”), but this time it was compounded by the presence of doughnut labeled “Jenny Lind.”

The Jenny Lind, or Linds, really, because there were multiple, looked similar to cinnamon rolls in structure given their prominent dough swirl but more akin to an unremarkable regular glazed donut in flavor. A subsequent taste test confirmed my latter assumption.  

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The non-pastry Jenny Lind traveled as far south as Havana on her American tour.

Image: Shutterstock

Let’s be clear: it’s rare for me to meet a doughnut I don’t like, but in this case, I was too distracted by its strange moniker to really enjoy it. An inquiry to a passing bakery employee as to why said pastry shared its name with the Swedish Nightingale was met was a shrug, and Google also failed to shed much light on the matter. I did learn that H-E-B is not alone in selling Jenny Lind donuts; however, they do not seem to be “a thing” given infrequent presence on mainstream doughnut menus. They are even less of a thing on the East Coast, where most of of Lind's American tour dates took her.

I also learned that following her tour of the United States, Lind had several types of foods named after her (including a type of soup and melon) but that list does not include a doughnut or pastry. With lack of a better explanation, I wondered whether in some bizarre act of reverse anthropomorphization, Lind’s physicality was likened to a pastry (ugh, I know). And while she was, by many accounts, “sweet,” she was fairly slight, hardly a “doughy” person.

Readers, clue me in. 

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