America and Donuts: Love at First Sight

"Doughnuts," Homer Simpson once marveled. "Is there anything they can't do?" From one expert to another: In "Glazed America: A History of the Doughnut," anthropologist Paul Mullins traces the pastry from sweet-tooth snack to shining symbol of national gluttony.

The Idea: In the 1920s, automation helped doughnut makers surpass the union-controlled bagel industry, turning doughnuts into the breakfast king. As obesity rates increased, doughnuts became central to what Mullins calls the "moral battleground" to get lazy, overweight Americans off the couch.

The evidence: The Salvation Army got soldiers hooked on doughnuts during World War I, then chains such as Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts, launched in 1937 and 1950 respectively, prompted an explosion. Consumption transcends class and background: cops love 'em, criminals love 'em. They're staples in poor neighborhoods, and in wealthier, gentrified enclaves, they've survived the Starbucks boom.

The conclusion: Doughnuts are the forbidden dough. But we've caved into our craving, against our better judgment. In other words, Homer won.

America and Donuts: Love at First Sight | U.S.