The desire for sweetness is biologically hardwired in humans, according to Dr. Gary Beauchamp, longtime former director and president of the Monell Chemical Senses Center. It is an evolutionary response that developed way back when sweet things were hard to find in the natural environment. Now, we can find sweets just about anywhere.  

Part of our global trade mini-series, this episode focuses on all things sweet! Ironically, the history of sugar comes with some bitter truths. Stories include the problematic journey of the cocoa bean from West Africa to chocolate products in the U.S., farmers pushing back against “Big Sugar,” cultural appropriation at the National Date Festival, and the intertwined history of Silk Road merchants and the first domesticated apples.

Next week, we continue our exploration of food and trade with stories about spice.

Further Reading:

Get your own copy of “Fruit from the Sands: The Silk Road Origins of the Foods We Eat” by Robert Spengler here

Read more about Dr. Leissle’s work here

Read Professor Nestle’s comments on the federal government’s controversial new dietary guidelines. You can follow her critiques of the food industry on her blog, Food Politics, and in some of her recent books, like Unsavory Truth, published in 2018.

Learn more about Gilliard Farms on their website. And check out Jupiter’s Almanac, Matthew Raiford’s show on Heritage Radio Network.

Learn more about Dandelion Chocolate’s single-origin chocolate here 

Follow Dr. Sarah (McCormick) Seekatz on Twitter and check out her book, Images of America: Indio’s Date Festival to learn more about the history of California’s date industry.


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