Confectionery for Pleasure

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
It’s thought that the first nonmedical confection in Europe may have been made around 1200 by a French druggist who coated almonds with sugar. Medieval recipes from the French and English courts call for sugar to be added to fish and fowl sauces, to ham, and to various fruit and cream-egg desserts. Chaucer’s Tale of Sir Topas, a 14th-century parody of the chivalric romance, included sugar in a list of “royal spicery,” along with gingerbread, licorice, and cumin. By the 15th century, wealthy Europeans had come to appreciate the purely pleasurable virtues of sugar and its ability to complement the flavors of many foods. The Vatican librarian Platina wrote around 1475 that sugar was being produced in Crete and Sicily as well as India and Arabia, and added,