Taste of Sweet: Our Complicated Love Affair with Our Favorite Treats

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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 ...

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Taste of Sweet: Our Complicated Love Affair with Our Favorite Treats

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Overview

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Magazine editor Chen covers everything readers ever wanted to know about sugar in her delectable first book. A self-confessed sweet fanatic, Chen's fascination with the taste of sweet is "not simply the taste itself", but "how we perceive and react to it." What unfolds from this "complicated love affair" is a delightful survey of the history, culture, and science of sugar, and the enticing hold it has on our senses and imagination.

Why do Americans have such a love-hate relationship with sugar? How does one grow the perfect-tasting strawberry? Is there a link between class, sugar, and obesity? And can food technologists make sweet foods healthier or healthful foods taste more to our liking?

These are just a few of the questions pondered as Chen follows sugar from its humble origins to refinement, where its addictive taste captured the hearts and palates of European aristocracy, to the present, where science is reaching for an even sweeter sweet. Whether contemplating the high culture of sugar (Godiva) or the low (a Hershey bar), discerning the difference between a super-taster and a non-taster, The Taste of Sweet never fails to entertain as thoroughly as it informs. As Chen discovers, "the perfect sweet reflects our endless search for happiness without compromise." (Summer 2008 Selection)
Publishers Weekly

In her thoughtful first book, Chen, a longtime magazine editor and writer, examines the physical, psychological and historical relationship between sweet flavors and humans, especially Americans. She begins by looking at how we taste by examining the human tongue, and taste buds in particular, meeting up with a psychologist whose work strongly suggests that some of us simply taste things differently. But while the tongue just absorbs this information, the stomach and the brain communicate what we like, what we want more of, whether we've had enough or whether one or the other or both wants to override the system for a variety of reasons, including emotional ones, and permit overindulgence. The author follows a technician whose work includes finding and using flavor components such as the "1950s strawberry." Turning her focus to stateside sweetness in the second half of the book, Chen argues that for a variety of historical and cultural reasons we Americans are uniquely vulnerable to sweetness because of external factors, thus, our uneasy relationship with it. The result is a large industry for and about sugar, another against, yet another for artificial sweeteners and connected others such as those for nutrition, exercise and diet. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Adult/High School- This rollicking survey of desserts is as addictively compelling as the author finds red velvet cake to be. Referencing agricultural history, gastronomic invention, medical research, and social changes, Chen weaves readily between science and art, expertly including readers in her exploration of taste buds, kitchen technology, and up-to-the-moment news about weight and health. Not only is it fun to read about chocolate, sugar, and dueling recipes, but Chen also offers intriguing narrative on the history of candy (the name of which was borrowed by Crusaders from the 11th-century Arabic sweet called Qandi ); how experiments like the Edible Schoolyard, funded by the Alice Waters Foundation, can instill food literacy in adolescents; and the economics of food shopping that distinguishes gustatory selections made by wealthy and poor Americans. Accessible and focused by turns on such topics as fat, hybrid fruit, and artificial sweeteners, this volume can be dipped into or read in full. It's an excellent choice for teens who have any interest in knowing why candy bars are attractive and for curriculum planners in search of stellar writing to add to courses in science, history, health, or sociology.-Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia

From the Publisher
“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

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307351906
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/18/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.53 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

JOANNE CHEN is an editor and writer in New York City. Her work has appeared in Fortune Small Business, Life, Vogue, Health, Food & Wine, and the New York Times. Visit her website at www.thetasteofsweet.com.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Introduction     1
Sweet Enough for You?     13
The Myth of the Refined Palate     31
The Real Taste of Strawberry     55
Always Room for Dessert     79
Sweet Tooths Anonymous     99
Does Sweet Make You Fat?     119
Let Them Eat Cake     135
Guilty Pleasures     159
A More Perfect Sweetener     181
And Good for You     205
Notes     223
Acknowledgments     253
Index     255
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