While browsing the bookshelves of an independent bookstore that primarily sells antiquarian, out-of-print, and hard to find books, I stumbled across a book with a tempting chocolate chip cookie on the front cover titled, The Taste of Sweet by Joanne Chen. An aficionado for all things sweet from artistinal confectioneries to store bought candy bars and home baked brownies and cookies, Ms. Chen is fond of all things sweet. This super fun read delves into such reasons as to why certain people prefer sweets more than others, why some do not even go near desserts, how some cultures define and craft their sweets, and even tackles the debate on artificial sweeteners.
For me, each chapter of the book was just as sweet as candy, with tidbits of humor and factual knowledge interwoven throughout the pages. Most times I had a very difficult time putting the book down and would read for seventy to a hundred pages at a time, finishing the book in two days.
So, who are the people that enjoy sweets the most and why, whereas who are the people that would rather have a glass of white wine than digging their fork into a rich chocolate fudge cake? The answer begins to unfold when the author takes a quiz to see if she is a non-taster or a super-taster. What does she exactly mean by this? A person who is a super-taster is someone who has more taste-buds than non-tasters, and because of this physical difference, sweetness and bitterness can seem more intense. On the other hand, a non-taster is someone who is more likely to enjoy extremely sweet or bitter foods, as well as fattier textures. Those that are in the middle are known as tasters.
Are you a super-taster or a non-taster? You could find out which one you are here. The author scored somewhere in the middle, and my score reflected that I was more of a super-taster. There were two questions that I could have gone either way with such as #4 where I enjoy corn and brussel sprouts and #1 where I take my coffee black but specialty coffee drinks such as macchiatos and lattes, I prefer with a type of sweetener such as a caramel, gingerbread or a pumpkin syrup.
The sweetener debate comes into discussion towards the end of the book, narrating how Equal stole the popularity of a no-calorie sweetener away from Nutrasweet, then followed by the creation of Splenda that soon become a favorite amongst consumers. I am one that never uses artificial sweeteners and have stuck with the real thing through and through.
Ms. Chen intertwines her own thoughts and tales on sweet treats into the book, including memories from her own kitchen as a child to how she embraces her sweet tooth. As a reader, you just want to dive right in and nosh on a plate of Oreos and petit fours (because sweet is always sweet). As you read, think about your own desires for sweets: do you prefer crunchy or gummy candies or gooey chocolate chip cookies? Lastly, think about the French may describe sweets as rich and heavenly, whereas the Americans tend to refer to desserts as sinful and decadent. These are just some of the many discussions that come to the table in those oh-so delectable book.
I highly recommend this sublime read and don’t feel guilty if you decide to indulge in your favorite, after-dinner sweet morsel! My pastry of choice is the sensational strawberry tart.
For some more information on the book, The Taste of Sweet, please visit the author’s website at http://thetasteofsweet.com/book.html