Make sure you have a macaroon or a cupcake handy before you
crack the cover of SWEET INVENTION: A HISTORY OF DESSERT.
You're going to be hungry for a taste of something sweet
before you get through the introduction.
Krondl sees dessert in terms of music and often includes
musical comparisons for the way a specific
dessert "feels." This thoroughly researched book paints
sweeping word pictures that describe not only tastes, but
the people responsible for creating them. Within the
book's pages, you meet the Sacher and the Linzer who gave
their name to the respective tarts, and their predecessors
back through history. Krondl gives us overviews of
trends, but more often focuses in on an individual, and how
that individual contributed to the history of "dessert"
which he only loosely defines.
Throughout the text, we seem to be chasing the idea that
dessert should be dessert, as many of the cultures
discussed in the first part of the book present courses
together buffet style, or serve sweet and savory courses
without a sense that dessert should come last -- or in some
cases, present entire banquets made up of course after
course of sweets.
Krondl states at the outset that he will not cover dessert
in every country in the world. Rather, the story he traces
is of cane sugar, from boiled jiggery in India to the sweat
of slaves on Caribbean sugar plantations, to the cheap
sugar that allowed the glut of manufactured sweets into the
Krondl uses primary sources, such as the journals of
Indian kings and British visitors, to paint a picture of the
grandeur and reverence with which milk, butter, and sugar
were treated in India before taking us through the lands
of Baklava and into Europe. He also interviews
contemporary confectioners and pastry chefs across Europe,
giving the narrative a feel of author-as-participant as
well as expert.
A single recipe is included at the end of each chapter.
Because of the historical nature of the recipes, this book
would serve an excellent choice for a book group. Of
course, it is also full of fascinating tidbits for the lone
reader to share with friends and family.
From the sacred fudge served to India’s gods to the
ephemeral baklava of Istanbul’s harems, the towering sugar
creations of Renaissance Italy, and the exotically scented
macarons of twenty-first century Paris, the world’s
confectionary arts have not only mirrored social,
technological, and political revolutions, they have also, in
many ways, been in their vanguard.
Sweet Invention: A
History of Dessert captures the stories of sweet makers past
and present from India, the Middle East, Italy, France,
Vienna, and the United States, as author Michael Krondl
meets with confectioners around the globe, savoring and
exploring the dessert icons of each tradition. Readers will
be tantalized by the rich history of each region’s
unforgettable desserts and tempted to try their own hand at
a time-honored recipe.
A fascinating and rewarding read for
any lover of sugar, butter, and cream, Sweet Invention
embraces the pleasures of dessert while unveiling the
secular, metaphysical, and even sexual uses that societies
have found for it.