Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Donut: A Canadian History

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Donut: A Canadian History

Article excerpt

Steve Penfold, The Donut: A Canadian History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), xi + 256 pp. Cased. £40. ISBN 0-8020-9792-2. Paper. £15. ISBN 0-8020-9545- 9.

Everyone has a donut anecdote. For some in Britain, it is a memorable seaside or fairground treat. Whilst discussing Steve Penfold's The Donut: A Canadian History, a friend regaled me with a particularly pertinent tale. Working in a bakery there was, he said, a machine which set the percentage of filling to donut. Although the norm was to fill twenty per cent, my now colleague affectionately recalls the day he made a donut which was ninety-nine per cent filling, or as he terms it 'a ninety-niner'. Dreamily he still wonders what the eventual consumer of the donut would have thought on receipt of this mostlyjam donut. Steve Penfold's The Donut explores many aspects at play in this recollection. Discussing the role of the baker in donut store history, Penfold points to how apparent free choice in donut production was, after mass production, often only a codified choice within a regimented system. This regimentation has been a side effect of franchise guidelines, or more widely, the formal constraints of mass donut-making machinery. Leaping over the counter, Penfold also examines how donut production has always implicitly imagined a variety of consumers.

Penfold's text is, however, more expansive than a simple analysis of mechanisation and consumption, taking multiple interviews with industry figures of the twentieth century and locating them in a combined history, geography, politics and economics of a Canadian boom industry. Analysing donut store ownership, the impacts of franchising and the social space created by the donut store, Penfold's scope is impressive. Tracing the initial technology of the donut industry, Penfold uncovers a tale of selling technology, and a wonderful array of graphs and charts detailing the science of cooling times and ideal donut forms. …

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