Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut

by Paul R. Mullins

From the publisher: Everybody loves a good doughnut. The magic combination of soft dough, hot oil, and sugar coating–with or without sprinkles–inspires a wide range of surprisingly powerful memories and cravings.

Yet we are embarrassed by our desire; the favorite food of Homer Simpson, caricatured as the dietary cornerstone of cops, a symbol of our collective descent into obesity, doughnuts are, in the words of one California consumer, a “food of shame.” 

Paul Mullins turns his attention to the simple doughnut in order to learn more about North American culture and society. Both a breakfast staple and a snack to eat any time of day or night, doughnuts cross lines of gender, class, and race like no other food item. Favorite doughnut shops that were once neighborhood institutions remain unchanged–even as their surrounding neighborhoods have morphed into strip clubs, empty lots, and abandoned housing.

Blending solid scholarship with humorous insights, Mullins offers a look into doughnut production, marketing, and consumption. He confronts head-on the question of why we often paint doughnuts in moral terms, and shows how the seemingly simple food reveals deep and complex social conflicts over body image and class structure. In Mullins’s skillful hands, this simple pastry provides surprisingly compelling insights into our eating habits, our identity, and modern consumer culture.

Paul Mullins is associate professor of anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis.

University of Florida Press, 2008