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

3.14  ·  Rating Details ·  128 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
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 t ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 24th 2009 by Clarkson Potter (first published March 18th 2008)
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Community Reviews

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Aug 06, 2008 Jill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was not nearly as good as I had hoped. The author tried to touch on too many topics and so left them all a little unfinished. She interviews many different sorts of scientists and others who study sweets and flavors and they really carry the book. I wish I could have just read all her interviews word for word. Instead she injected a little too much anectodal evidence for my liking--especially because her anecdotes just say the same thing over and over again. I get it--you like cake, me ...more
It's about sweets, sugar, eating, and food. What's not to like?
Sep 25, 2012 Shana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished Joanne Chen’s The Taste of Sweet: Our Complicated Love Affair with our Favorite Treats. I’m a huge anthropology of food fan thanks to a prof at good ol’ MHC so I’ll never hesitate to pick up a book like this.

While others may be more fascinated in the biological background behind sweet or the chemical composition of sugar substitutes, I was more interested in Chen’s discussion of the way sweetness and taste are constructed based on a variety of factors.

She also included a good deal
Daylynn Foster
Some of it was boring to get through but I'm glad I read this. The biggest thing I learned is that everyone has different numbers & kinds of tastebuds & they are in different locations. This affects how you determine taste, levels of sweetness & bitterness, reactions or non-reactions to it. A PROP test can determine if you are a "taster", "non-taster", medium, or super-taster. People who react badly to vegetables my have 100 to 1000 times a greater sensitivity to bitterness than you. ...more
Aug 30, 2010 Heidi rated it liked it
Shelves: zu-library
This book is popular science, written by a frequent contributor to mainstream women's magazines. It does a decent job of simplifying biology, chemistry, anthropology and other disciplines as related to "sweets." I wish the author had left herself and her personal anecdotes out of it a bit more.

As for the science stuff, some of it was really interesting. I liked the section on super-tasters, non-tasters, etc. and the related studies that have been done on them. Like, what birth order has to do wi
Jul 07, 2008 Patty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
When I picked this up I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting it to be such an interesting, informative book. I loved reading about all the studies done and theories out there on sweets. It has me wondering, once again, what kind of taster I am - I know I am not a non taster.

This was a book that I could discuss with my family easily. A good way to share things about nutrition with my children without sounding like a parent. My son even asked me once what I had learned new in th
Jun 13, 2008 Jennie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book - covered so many different aspects of our attraction to sweetness. I was fascinated by the concept of tasters and super tasters and the chemistry behind sugar replacements. Me, I have no problem with sugar and fat. I think I was born on the wrong continent. I'm with the French - when you say "heavy cream" I say "whipped!"

A good book to read to take a look at your associations with foods and how to improve the relationshp and let the guilt go. Food is to be enjoyed. We have
Feb 05, 2009 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 the reader with tiny personal insights, then dives headlong into the complications of the chemistry of sweet. Fascinating, if a bit dry at times
Sep 13, 2011 Caroline rated it liked it
Parts of this book on sweetness and the human relationship to sweets were fascinating, while others felt dry, overdone, or just not explored sufficiently. Chen interviewed some brilliant food scientists, but I like some of their books on the topic better (Wansink, Marion Nestle, etc) Plus, it wasn't really a thorough exploration of the psychology and physiology of sweets, but instead a very personal journey through her own understanding of sweets and the role it plays. But, interesting and mouth ...more
Aug 12, 2009 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I've noted elsewhere, this book could have used some good editing--it's one of those "too long to be an article/too short to be a book (without generous margins and leading)" titles. But there are some great and fascinating tidbits in here about the science of tasting, the differences between real sugar/sugar substitutes/high-fructose corn syrup, and the like. It's a fairly quick read, so it's easy to zoom through the less interesting parts.
Samira Kawash
Mar 30, 2013 Samira Kawash rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sugar-and-candy
Chen explores the history, science, psychology, and pleasure of America’s relation with sweetness. Sweets for Chen mean cookies, cakes, pies, desserts, ice cream, and chocolate. This book is incredibly useful for bringing together the latest knowledge from every corner as it impacts on what sweetness means in American culture. (But strange that in a book on sweetness, she has almost nothing to say about candy itself.)
Brett East
This caught my eye at the library because of the obvious draw the cover has on it! I have a major sweet tooth and I thought this might be able to tell me why! It did, kind of. But it certainly opened my eyes to the whys of what people choose to eat. I often refer to myself as a food snob and now I know why. But I also used to look down on people who enjoyed eating mediocre food, and now I cannot judge them any longer. It is just their genetics that bring them the pleasure of that food.
Aug 02, 2008 Julie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: healthy-living
Meh - it was ok. I didn't feel like the book had any focus. It was more historical than thought-provoking, which is what I hoped the book would be. More like Michael Pollan's books than a historical narrative or explanation of sweetness. I will say that the last 2-3 chapters were exactly what I was hoping for, and really caused me to think about the relationship between sweet, socioeconomics, and science. If only the rest of the chapters were as engaging!
Dec 12, 2008 Nathan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A straightforward work of pop science. You might argue too straightforward; a lot of Chen's "discoveries" are things that we probably already knew, intuitively or otherwise. Repetitive too; this could have easily been trimmed down into a very decent magazine article. Instead, it's a so-so book; unprovocative, inoffensive, unremarkable.
Margaret Sankey
More research for the Food Class: how has the chemical taste of mango changed since more Americans have eaten actual mangoes? How do artificial sweeteners work (and the aspartame-Rumsfeld connection)? Why are super-tasters less likely to be binge drinkers? How does class influence shopping choices? Why doesn't ice cream sell better in China?
I had to read this for a Non-Fiction book report. And the book had to be over 100 pages.... Pure Torture! The book itself wasn't torture, but the fact that I absolutely despise non-fiction books didn't make it very exciting. Although I did like how the author tried to put hints of humor throughout it. And I must say that I did learn something(s).
May 14, 2013 Meg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health
2.5 stars. Liked the information presented but felt there was too much filler (mostly generalizations along the lines of "We feel X about dessert because Y"). I was interested in the info about tasters, non-tasters, and super-tasters - and the exploration of why some people experience certain tastes more intensely than others. I did appreciate that the author was unabashedly pro-dessert!
Jun 15, 2011 xq rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
i think i would've liked this book more if i hadn't already read lots of food marketing/nutritional science type stuff before. felt like a lot of the studies in here were ones i already read about in other books. oh well!
Sep 10, 2009 Jen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Alright, but a bit disappointing. I was looking forward to reading about one of the things I like best (sweets!), but the book was not as focused as it could have been. There are some good bits of information, but the book really doesn't gel.
Shirley Pastore McCormack
Too technical for me. Had to stop reading after the first third
Yummy and entertaining!
Christy Sibila
An interesting non-fiction about why we are all such sweet addicts. There is lots of information about artificial sweeteners, which I found intriguing.
Jul 14, 2009 Ashley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
A meandering, interesting, but empty read. I learned a little about the chemistry of taste, and could certainly concur with the author's desire for sweets, but wouldn't recommend the book.
Laila (BigReadingLife)
I think I new a lot of this stuff anyway, but it was pretty interesting and fairly comprehensive.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
I think I read this and liked it, but it was so long ago that I'm not at all certain. Dates are super approximate.
Jul 24, 2008 Ed rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: focus-on
A joyride through the land of sweet. You learn something, you salivate at the constantly mentioned foodstuffs. Informative. I like the author's voice.
May 21, 2012 Catherine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very informative. I love food, especially ice cream. Reading this only confirmed what I love. I discovered I am a super taster.
Jan 30, 2008 Polly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meh. I don't know why I keep picking up pop science books.
Susan Erhardt
May 07, 2008 Susan Erhardt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
Quite interesting!
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