It’s a new book about the role sweets have played in shaping society:
The history of dessert is tortuous and elusive. It involves transmigration and cross-fertilization of cultures, fashion and the forging of national identity, economic, social, and gender relations, advances in communication, technology and chemistry, and is strewn throughout with myth and curious by-blows.
The rest of the review is here.
The author makes a special note of the refinement of sugarcane, which was the basis for modern desserts and important for developing the slave trade.
The practice started in India, and then gradually spread through the Middle East and into Europe. Desserts spread in the same way cultures and languages do, so most sweets have a complex etymology with a lot of history embedded in them.
He also comes down hard on American use of sugar, which he dubs “The Culinary Industrial Complex”, and believes is responsible for the commoditization of dessert. He says Americans had very little culinary traditions when sugarcane was introduced to them, which caused us to exert our culinary resources figuring out ways to process and ship sweets instead of refining them.