Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

spirituality, a heightened emotional state traditionally achieved by perceived unity with the divine through mortification of the flesh, including meditation under stress, finds its physical equivalent in the pleasure delivered by sweetness. Whatever the source—biblical manna from heaven, sweet dates eaten at sunset after the daylong fast of Ramadan, honey used to sweeten the Aztec emperor’s sacred cup—sweetness delivers an intense feeling of happiness, however brief. This experience, when shared, enters the collective memory on which all belief systems depend. The seemingly magical ability of sweetness to transform unpalatable foodstuffs—whether sour, bitter, or even poisonous—must surely have increased the feeling of mystery.