Doughnuts as a symbol of consumer culture
My earlier post on Krispy Kreme's woes reminded me of a press release I got on a new book, Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut by Paul R. Mullins, associate professor and chair of anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis:
It explores the development of America’s consumer culture through our relationship with the doughnut, beloved by many, a symbol of temptation and unhealthiness to others.
I wrote back saying I don't exactly see how a soft, warm, yummy glazed doughnut could be a symbol of America's consumer culture, only I sounded more serious and less hungry than that.
Dr. Mullins kindly sent me this explanation: ...
If you think about what are usually taken as the key elements in 20th century consumer culture--suburbanization, car commuting, mass production, chain stores, and an embrace of modestly priced commodities like fast food -- doughnut marketing and consumption were significantly bolstered by all those transformations.
For instance, in the 1920s doughnut machines began to churn out massive quantities of doughnuts, which really made doughnuts a mass-consumed commodity instead of a food folks fried once in a while in their kitchens; when chain stores began to provide standardized supplies to franchisees (which really hits doughnut stores in the 1950s), doughnut chains expanded very rapidly led by Dunkin' and Krispy Kreme as well as a bunch of regional chains; and if any food has ever been well-suited to car culture and suburban commuting, it is the doughnut, which is easily delivered in drive-throughs, can actually be consumed while driving (or at least more easily than an Egg McMuffin and the competitors), and doughnuts are inexpensive and filling.
Like lots of other changes associated with 20th century fast food, there are genuine undersides of such transformations, so at the same time doughnuts' history stresses the implications of such shifts in how we buy and consume food.
I wish I had asked him whether he like Dunkin' Donuts or Krispy Kremes better. Or whether he likes doughnuts at all.
(AP Photo/Nell Redmond, File)