Even if we're not full-fledged sugar fanatics, we all have a sweet spot, whether it's a favorite candy from childhood or a special dessert Mom used to bake. Journalist Joanne Chen is an unabashed lover of sweets, and her romance with them has led her to ponder more deeply their place in our lives.

Why is it, she wondered, that Americans love sweets but are so conflicted about them, while so many other cultures are not? How did organic honey become a status symbol while high-fructose corn syrup turned into the sweetener for the masses? What new sweeteners are food technologists cooking up in the labs—and which of those might someday change the benchmark of what we think sweet tastes like?

Chen finds the answer by visiting sensory scientist who study taste buds, horticulturalists who are out to breed the perfect strawberry, and researchers and educators exploring the link between class and obesity. Along the way she also revels in the exploring the historical sweetscape by sharing with us the sweets that adorned the banquet tables of imperial China and the pie safes of American pioneers, and her own delight in desserts from decades past.

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