Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Sweet Read

I had a achingly lovely time reading Tim Richardson's "Sweets: A History of Candy" (NY: Bloomsbury, 2002). Son of a dentist and grandson of a toffee maker, Richardson knows his subject, and although there are lots of translational difficulties between the British and American names for different candies, it was a nostalgic and delightful book. He details candy manufacturing history, cultural differences in sweet treats (the Dutch like salty licorice and many Asian treats are puckeringly sour) and the many eccentricities of candy entrepreneurs. Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka is apparently not the only confectionery baron with a nutty center.

His writing style is a nice balance of factual and humorous, rather like Bill Bryson. In the factoid-packed chapter about chocolate one learns all about the cacao tree, whose seedpods are described as looking like "melons with the weathered texture of a walnut or W.H. Auden", and he spends quite a lot of ink on his devotion to sampling various sweet treats, his heart welling up most every time.

If this book whets your appetite for more sweets, try the Candy Blog or this link to a review of rare confectionary resources at the British Library as researched by Richardson.

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