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

by Joanne Chen

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Not As Sweet As Can Be
I bought this book hoping it would be another madcap adventure in the land of plentiful sweets, but was disappointed to find investigative reporting applied to sweet stuff. Though the book is definitely uber-researched and well-written, I kept waiting for author Chen to bust out a chapter on her favorite sweets. Instead, she teases with glimpses of personal preferences, then dives headlong into the complications of the chemistry of sweet. Fascinating, if a bit dry at times. Place this book on your whole-grain cookie shelf: good for you, but not sinfully delicious. ( )
  jawallac27 | Jun 9, 2009 |
About:
Chen writes about all things sweet. Sugar, fake sugar, how we taste sweetness, the history of sugar, tastes and baked goods around the World, how and why you get full, how flavors are made, how sweets became "bad" and their relationship with weight are all covered.

Things I thought were interesting:

Some folks are "super tasters"

The idea that there is a "taste map" on the tongue where different areas taste different things (bitter, sweet, etc.) is a myth.

If you tell folks that a wine is from South Dakota and tell some other folks that the exact same wine is from California, they'll say the California wine tastes better.

Companies adjust the taste of their products to localities. A drink may be sweeter in one country than another.

If a restaurant sells zucchini cookies but starts calling them Grandma's zucchini cookies, not only will sales increase, but consumers will say they taste better.

In a study on chocolate cravings, only an actual chocolate bar curbed the craving as opposed to a pill capsule with cocoa in it. But people who fast and are shown favorite foods have the same brain area light up as an addict craving drugs.

People eat more when distracted, i.e. when watching TV.

Slim-Fast has 180 calories and 4 tablespoons of sugar per can and is supposed to make people thin. A can of cola has 150 calories and 3 tablespoons of sugar and is supposed to make us fat. Granted, one is supposed to be a meal replacement but still....

The 3 cheapest fruits are apples, bananas and oranges.

Anything under 5 calories per serving can be reported as having no calories. No calorie Splenda really has 4 calories.

More than a dozen feedback loops affect human food consumption.

Pros:
Fascinating and well written in an accessible style that makes scientific concepts easy to understand. Sources cited. There is a yummy looking cookie on the cover

Cons:
I thought it odd that Chen includes a shot from her knees up as her author photo. It's as if she needs to prove she's not fat even though she wrote a book on sweets. She mentions that 12 different processes affect food consumption in humans but provides no source for this fact. Lacks a satisfying conclusion. ( )
  charlierb3 | May 14, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307351904, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:20 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A scientific look at the human love affair with sweets examines our complicated, often conflicted relationship with sweet foods from a historical, socieconomic, technological, and cultural perspective.

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