Cover of "Glazed America" by Paul Mullins
Cover of "Glazed America" by Paul Mullins - 
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Scott Jagow: Even the donut shop is going healthier.
Dunkin' Donuts says next month, it'll start offering flatbread sandwiches under 300 calories each. They're made with egg whites.

We have such a strange relationship with the doughnut shop. In fact, there's a new book about the history of the donut. It's called Glazed America. And the author is Paul Mullins. Paul, how do people look at donuts in this country?

Paul Mullins: Well, for some of the people that I talk to over the time I did the book, there are folks that believe very strongly that donuts were the holy grail. And then on the other hand, there were people that thought that donuts were the worst food on the planet.

Jagow: Well, how many of those people that said they hate donuts were actually eating a donut when they said that?

Mullins: Um, a lot of them. You're right. That's one of the kind of interesting contradictions, is that even when people go to the donut shop, sometimes they'll have misgivings. Whereas they might go to a coffee shop and drink a rich double latte with vastly more calories, actually, than a donut and not feel as equally conflicted about them. So I think that's actually one of the things. Donuts are often taken as a sort of symbolic stand-in for all the evil foods that we consume.

Jagow: That's really interesting. So what happens to donut sales in a down economy?

Mullins: Well, the conventional logic is that donuts are sort of an inverse mirror of the economy. So for instance, during times of recession, folks in the industry argue that donut sales generally will increase because we're pinching pennies. You can eat a very filling snack or meal, you know, at a donut shop for very little money. You know there are chains that are actually doing . . . donut chains are actually doing quite well right now.

Jagow: Well, let's talk about the donut chains. Who's winning the donut war, Krispee Kreme or Dunkin'?

Mullins: Dunkin' is certainly profiting much more, making a whole lot more money right now than Krispee Kreme. On another level, though, Krispee Kreme has been very stable. There's a much, much smaller number of Krispee Kremes out there, but they're doing very, very good in PR. So they have a kind of cache to them. You know, my impression is that when, whenever a chain comes into a local market, such as Dunkin' here in the Midwest, the . . . all the little, local bakeries, those individual owner operated bakeries, they do well, too. And one of the arguments that a local baker told me, is he said, "Well, it's not really just the chain per say that people are interested in -- it's really donuts that they want to consume."

Jagow: All right, Paul, what's your favorite donut?

Mullins: I'm a fan of super sweet donuts as a Southerner, and there's a donut shop here in Indianapolis, Long's Bakery, that makes a very, very sweet vanilla-filled donut that's really superb.

Jagow: Mmm. I cast my vote for Tim Horton's Canadian Maple Donut.

Mullins: They're delightful, actually. Tim Horton is a very distinctive flavor. It's a niche, it's not really very well covered by American donut makers.

Jagow: Paul Mullins, he's the author of Glazed America. Thanks for joining us.

Mullins: Thanks.

Jagow: In Los Angeles, which has the most donut shops in the country, I'm Scott Jagow. Thanks for tuning in, and enjoy your day.