Dismissed as déclassé by gourmands, blamed for the scourge of obesity, and yet loved by all, the taste of sweet has long been at the center of both controversy and celebration. For anyone who has ever felt conflicted about a cupcake, this is a book to sink your teeth into. In The Taste of Sweet, unabashed dessert lover Joanne Chen takes us on an unexpected adventure into the nature of a taste you thought you knew and reveals a world you never imagined.
Sweet is complicated, our individual relationships with it shaped as much by childhood memories and clever marketing as the actual sensation of the confection on the tongue. How did organic honey become a luxury while high-fructose corn syrup has been demonized? Why do Americans think of sweets as a guilty pleasure when other cultures just enjoy them? What new sweetener, destined to change the very definition of the word sweet, is being perfected right now in labs around the world?
Chen finds the answers by visiting sensory scientists who study taste buds, horticulturalists who are out to breed the perfect strawberry, and educators who are researching the link between class and obesity. Along the way she sheds new light on a familiar taste by exploring the historical sweetscape through the banquet tables of emperors, the pie safes of American pioneers, the corporate giants that exist to fulfill our every sweet wish, and the desserts that have delighted her throughout the years. This fabulously entertaining story of sweet will change the way you think about your next cookie.
“Why do we love the sweets we love? Joanne Chen counts the ways in a book that, like its subject, quickly becomes an addiction.”
—Robert Sullivan, author of Rats and Cross Country
“The Taste of Sweet is a treatise on the enjoyment of eating, as viewed through the lens of the taste everyone likes best. Joanne Chen’s eminently readable history, sociology and science of sweetness are backed up not only by research, but by accounts of her personal gastronomical adventures and face-to-face conversations with leading scientists in the field. The science and pleasures of taste have probably never been explained so clearly and delightfully.”
—Robert L. Wolke, Professor emeritus of chemistry, University of Pittsburgh, and author of What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained
“This fascinating and engagingly written book explains the love and addiction for sweets that so many of us have. And it shows us how to have our cake and eat it too!”
—Wayne Harley Brachman, author of See Dad Cook and Retro Desserts
“Joanne Chen offers a fresh and fascinating perspective on the pastry revolution. The Taste of Sweet is an insightful and witty read for anyone with a sweet tooth.”
—François Payard, pastry chef/owner, Payard
“Joanne Chen’s odyssey through the personal, cultural, and public health implications of America’s ‘favorite food group’ pushes the discussion of sweets far past pretty pastries. This is a delicious book, as serious as dark chocolate and just as satisfying.”
–Molly O’Neill, editor of American Food Writing