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Chapter 1     Sweet enough for you?
I’ve always wondered why some coffee drinkers take three sugars while others prefer their brew black, and why I wouldn’t dream of saying no to fresh-baked cookies while others never care to order dessert. My visit with a wonderfully dedicated sensory scientist explains why one taster’s “too sweet” is another’s “just sweet enough.”

Chapter 2     The myth of the refined palate
Are expensive chocolates really better than the supermarket variety? Do pricey wines actually taste better cheap ones? I never thought so. After my tasting lesson with a professional taster, I learned why Snickers bars and Sara Lee pound cakes deserve a lot more respect than they get now.

Chapter 3     The real taste of strawberry
I thought I imagined it—that the strawberries I ate with breakfast in Paris tasted somehow different from the ones at my local supermarket in New York. But in fact they are different, just as the strawberry candy from the seventies tasted a world apart from the ones children enjoy now. I met with strawberry breeders and flavor creators to find out why.

Chapter 4     Always room for dessert
Whenever the dessert menu comes around, I’ll always order, no matter how full I am. I’m happy to report that indulging in the last course is not simply a matter of self-control (or lack thereof) but how we’re biologically wired.

Chapter 5     Sweet tooth’s anonymous
I thought I was addicted to sweets, until I spoke with a woman who confessed to devouring a whole cake in one sitting. Can sweets really take over your life, the way drinking or gambling can? A visit with addiction researchers set me straight.

Chapter 6     Does sweet make you fat?
Are donuts and cupcakes really the culprit behind our expanding midsection? Or are they simply convenient scapegoats? In discovering how our eating habits and food choices have changed over the years, I suspect the latter (though, I admit, I’m a bit biased).

Chapter 7     Let them eat cake
I almost called this chapter “Why are socialites so skinny?” It seems as if the wealthy remain slim, no matter how many fancy cupcakes they’d eat, while the rest of us are destined to suffer the caloric consequences. A visit to an epidemiologist introduced me to the fascinating correlation between sweetness and class.

Chapter 8     Guilty pleasures
Some research I stumbled across years back was a big reason why I started obsessing over the topic of sweets: A survey found that French women associated ice cream with celebrations, while, for Americans, the enjoyment of it was fraught with guilt. I met up with the researcher behind the study to understand the origins of our bitter/sweet affair.

Chapter 9     A more perfect sweetener
Scientists have figured out how to clone sheep, but why can’t they get an artificial sweetener just right? It wasn’t until I visited with sugar-substitute-makers that I learned to appreciate the complexity of the taste of sweet.

Chapter 10    And good for you
Can the taste of sweet actually help us get healthy? If the sensory-science team I met near my hometown in Connecticut has their way, a reversal of current circumstances may actually turn into a reality.

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