From Honey to Sugar

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Sweets in eastern Christianity are still based on honey, its taste, consistency, and color being tied to the particular flowers and fields that went into bees’ making, even though it may be covered with cane-sugar frostings or decorations. In Western Christianity, cane sugar imported from around the Mediterranean began to replace honey beginning in the tenth century because it was seen as more delicate and refined, whiter, and healthier. See medicinal uses of sugar. In the wedding banquets depicted in Sandro Botticelli’s series “The Story of Nastagio degli Onesti” (1483), said to show the marriage of Giannozzo Pucci and Lucrezia Bini in Florence, cane sugar sweets cover the tables and fill the trays that servants offer to the viewer. The costly sweets—assorted comfits (sugar-coated nuts, seeds, and spices), pine-nut cakes, marzipan, and candied fruits—mark the high status of the alliance as much as the familial emblems, silver and gold vessels, lavish clothing, and jewelry adorning the guests. See candied fruit; comfit; and marzipan. Sweets were significant gifts between families and individuals in health and illness because of their festive-nutritional-medicinal properties, suitable to every age and temperament.