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'Glazed America:' For The Love Of Doughnuts

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Anthropologist Paul Mullins bites down hard into the seemingly soft subject of Americans' devotion to a simple food made from deep-fried dough.

His book, Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut, traces the pastry from its humble introduction to this country by Dutch immigrants in the early 18th century to its modern day mass-produced, mass-consumed status as a enduring staple of American snack foods.

Mullins tells Liane Hansen that he used doughnuts as a mechanism to explore the development of America's consumer culture. World War I veterans ate them, and before and after World War II, chains of doughnut shops spread across the land. Mullins observed that over the past two decades, doughnuts have come under attack as "a moral battleground," with low-carb diets, and concerns for obesity.

"Doughnuts loom as one more horrid substance we shovel into our collective mouths, symbols of Americans' ever-increasing laziness and obesity," Mullins says. "For many of us, doughnuts are a very special treat that has a very special status and we're not going to give it up. Or it's going to be one of the last treats that we're going to give up."

Paul Mullins is associate professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis.

You can join Mullins for a live chat about your favorite doughnut memories Sunday, Aug. 31, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., on the Weekend Edition Sunday blog, Sunday Soapbox.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.