Sugar Rush

My co-workers and I had a recent discussion about whether one can consumer too much sugar in one sitting. The obvious answer is no. But what started the sweet tooth craze that we all seem to have? The answer can be found in Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert. Dessert is one of those things that, contrary to what I keep telling myself, is not exactly a must-have staple. Unlike other courses served during a meal, it is not required (well, not by most people). However, for many is it serious business, not just a candy-coated frippery.
The pursuit of sweetness has changed history, sometimes in ugly ways. Consider the slave trade that was formed to service massive sugar plantations. Desserts have even been symbols of wealth and class in many societies.
Author Michael Krondl researched the history of sweet endings, delving into six major regions of the world. Along the way, he discovered that the first recording of sugar processing was in India in 300AD, where cane sugar was boiled and refined for consumption. Even earlier in history, and using other sweeteners like honey, Imperial Rome was home to professional sweetmakers and their shops.
For hundreds of years, confectionary was considered a high art, much like architecture or painting, and was only to be done by professionals. But even the professionals had dubious creations, like sugared fish or eels in marzipan. I can definitively say that sugar and fish should not mix...unless you're making Swedish Fish.
Unfortunately, that artistic appreciation for dessert (and I'm not just talking about the way it looks) has been homogenized in America, where many don't understand the difference between Hershey's and Valrhona. In Europe, dessert is taken seriously, with patisseries offering culinary and visual delights that are treated almost with reverence.
I loved this look at the beginnings of the end course. But I do admit that it's difficult to read about sugar and control the cravings. So excuse me while I go in search of fudge.

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