Thursday, 27 October 2011

Book Review of Sweet Invention: The History of Dessert by Michael Krondl

It's not a really well-known fact, but I am fascinated by the history of foods and how they have evolved through various periods of time and cultures. My mind is full of information like how hamburgers developed from the Mongols in ancient times - they would put a piece of meat under their saddle and ride for days, eating it when the meat tenderised. And I could go on and get myself all tangled up in the origins of pasta and the Italy vs China debate. But I didn't know anything about the origins of some of our favourite desserts. And so when I got the opportunity to review this book, I couldn't download it quick enough.

The book tracks the history of a huge number of desserts, in places such as the Middle East, Italy, France, India and the US. It charts the religious beginnings of some of the sweet, milky confections in India, and how they were originally created for special ceremonies, family events or as offerings to Gods and Goddesses. It deals with Indian jalebis ("tangled dough soaked in syrup"), fritters, Middle-Eastern baklava, French pastries and many more.

For each of the countries the book deals with, there is a massive amount of detail on the feasts, legends and important people that influenced the desserts as well as interviews with those making these foods in the present day.

The book is, at times, humourous but always informative and carefully researched. The author has clearly travelled to the relevant countries to source the information and backs up all his claims with evidence. At 400 pages, it is a bit of a hefty read, but I enjoyed it. For those who have an interest in the history of food, it makes a great reference book. And with its close attention to detail, I would say that it is a definitive guide to the origins of some of the world's favourite desserts and sweet treats.

Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert is published by Chicago Review Press on 1st October 2011.

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