Sweets : A History of Temptation

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9780593049549: Sweets : A History of Temptation

It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone loves sweets. However keen we might be on fine cheese, vintage wine or acorn-fed Iberian ham, much of the time we'd be happier with a Curly-Wurly. But why do we like sweets so much? Why is there such an enormous variety of types, a whole uncharted gastronomy in itself? And where do they all come from? Many of the sweets we recognize today have a lineage going back hundreds of years. Sugar was first transported around the world with the exotic herbs and spices used by medieval apothecaries. By association, the confectioner's art was at first medical in nature and many sweets (such as aniseed balls, which were a medieval cure for indigestion) were originally consumed for reasons of health. Other sweets came in-to being in the worlds of ritual and magic. Chocolate, for example, was mixed with chilli and used as a libation by the Aztecs. It subsequently appeared in other rather more palatable drinks around the world, but not in the solid form we now recognize until about 150 years ago. But the special significance of a gift of chocolate remains . . . Whatever their manifold origins, sweets are still a feature of every human society around the world. Tim Richardson's book tells the extraordinary story of comfits and dragees, lozenges and pastilles, sherbets and subtleties. Like a box of chocolates, it's something you can just dip into - or scoff all at once.

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Review:

Tim Richardson has always looked at life through candy-colored glasses (his grandfather worked for a toffee company and his father was a dentist), but in Sweets, as the world's first "international confectionery historian," he takes a look at the history of mankind. From prehistoric cave paintings of our forefathers eating honey to references of cocoa beans used as money by the ancient Mayans, Richardson has left no gobstopper unturned. Through intensive research, plenty of taste testing, and field trips around the world to places such as Hershey, Pennsylvania, and the Haribo plant in Pontefract, Yorkshire, "birthplace of all English gummy bears," Richardson leads a whirlwind tour filled with unforgettable characters, intrigue, and high stakes. Along the way, he explains our planet-wide obsession with anything sweet--it's been scientifically proven that even newborn babies and elephants love anything sweet--and offers up a lifetime of trivia for the sweet-obsessed. Although Richardson is English and American readers might be unfamiliar with his number one favorite sweet, Rhubarb and Custards, chances are any sweet-lover will relish this quirky look at civilization and the truly fascinating history of candy-making and consumption. --Leora Y. Bloom

About the Author:

Tim Richardson is the world's first international confectionary historian. He also writes about gardens, landscape and theatre, and contributes to the Daily Telegraph, Country Life, House and Garden and Wallpaper*. He lives in north London.

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Published by Bantam (2002)
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