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10.08.08

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Phaedra

Glazed America

A History of the Doughnut

Reviewed by Matthew Craggs


ONE of the best ways to examine a culture is by looking at their eating habits and regional cuisines. This creates a problem with America because, for the most part, we don't have a culinary culture that we can call our own. Paul R. Mullins argues that what we identify as an American culinary experience is really a mix-up of appropriated customs and cooking techniques with no food greater exemplifying this than the donut. Throughout Glazed America , Mullins attempts to use the donut hole as a looking glass to examine America's history with food, commercial and economic trends, perceptions on health and body image and the average person's projection of these themes onto the donut. Ironically, what Miller doesn't spend a lot of time on is the history of the donut itself. Extensive coverage is given to the origins of the donut in American culture and how the popularization of cars and highways led to the expansion of the fried food, but there are many questions unanswered. Why do some people spell the word as "donut"? Where did those infamous sprinkles come in? This isn't to say that the associate professor of anthropology doesn't do a good job exploring what he sets out to explore. Mullins' look at how we have placed such a negative image on the donut—think lazy cops, Homer Simpson's obesity and donut dives—is fascinating, especially when he compares these notions to America's response to the bagel, which in its normal preparation with cream cheese exceeds a normal donut in fat content. In a surprising twist, Mullins also exposes the Canadian's love of fried dough and goes almost so far as to say that Canada plans to steal our donuts! Overall, the evidence that Mullins pulls together is exactly like his subject material: sinfully intriguing, occasionally circular and with a little hole in the middle that leaves you wanting more. (By Paul R. Mullins; University Press of Florida; 224 pages; $24.95 hardback )

 

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