The question is: How did we get to eating dessert at the end of a meal? Our expert is Michael Krondl. He wrote Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert in 2011.
Krondl’s book chronicles the evolution of the sweet course by visiting six regions that roughly reflect sugarcane’s spread across the world: India, the Middle East, Italy, France, Austria and the United States.
Although science has established that our love of sweet things is rooted in evolution, Krondl posits that “dessert is a purely cultural phenomenon.” Thus the Sacher torte, “an edible manifestation of an urban, cosmopolitan Vienna, as smooth and fitted as a little black cocktail dress,” embodies Austria’s tradition of skilled artisanal pastry cooks. Contrast this with America’s “rural and profoundly unaristocratic” apple pie, an expression of our nation’s “almost religious attitude about home baking.”
Medieval European cooks added a lot of sugar to their savory dishes, and at a documented Italian meal in 1529 the eel in marzipan was featured. Krondl reports that anchovy salad was served alongside sugar-dusted cream pies. By the mid-17th century when La Varenne wrote “Le Cuisinier François,” a line had been established between sweet and savory. Sugar was banned from salty dishes, but sweet foods were still served concurrently with meats and fish.
Service was eventually sequenced over time and 150 years later, dessert was at the end of the meal. And what about cheese? Where does that fit in? That's for tomorrow.
We see a wonderful model at the Minneapolis convention.