Monday, May 13, 2013

Sweet Tooth: The Bittersweet History of Candy

 The title: Sweet Tooth: The Bittersweet History of Candy
The author: Kate Hopkins
Publication: St. Martin's Press, 2012
Got it from: The library

With a name like Sweet Tooth: The Bittersweet History of Candy, and an enticing-looking chocolate on the cover, I couldn't not check this book out of the library.   Kate Hopkins is a food blogger (see her website Accidental Hedonist) and she attempts to trace the history of candy while visiting the places where sweets got their origins.  Her travels take her to Italy, where delicious torrone was invented (among other treats), Great Britain, the home of "grandma" candy as well as Cadbury's, and to her native US where she visits an early confectionery store in Boston and experiences the childlike heaven of Hershey, Pennsylvania - an entire town devoted to all things candy.

The author's premise is to find the simple childhood joys of candy, but the "bittersweet" truth is that when researching its history, she runs up against troubling issues.  Sugar's history has been intertwined for centuries with slavery that still exists today in parts of Africa.  Still, the author's tone never gets too dark, and interspersed with the history we get little fun facts, such as descriptions of various candies accompanied by their "candy exchange rate," always valued against a York Peppermint Pattie.  For instance, she describes candy corn: "A waxy fondant shaped like corn kernels, candy corn was created in the late 1800s as a means to disappoint future generations of children as they went door to door treat or treating," and calls its taste, "little more than candle wax with autumn colors added."  (Candy exchange rate?  1,476 pieces of candy corn = 1 York Peppermint Pattie.)

As someone who was obsessed with sweets as a child and still gets a bit gushy over the likes of Lindt chocolate and Jelly Bellies, I enjoyed this book very much.  It certainly gave me a new appreciation for how candies are made and their long history in Western culture.

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