La Dolce Vita
I like to imagine early man’s first discovery of sweetness. Perhaps he saw honey dripping from a comb, or maybe his arrow pierced a tree and out dripped a sticky, delectable sap. He tasted the stuff and – eureka! What a transcendentally delightful experience that must have been.
Like primates the world over, we humans are attracted to the flavor of sweet things and find them delightful, sometimes even…necessary. Dessert is a pleasurable and deeply satisfying treat beloved by every culture on the planet.
We come by our desire for sweets honestly, for a sweet taste means sugar and sugar means energy and energy — back in our hunter-gatherer days — meant the difference between life and death. Our earliest ancestors didn’t know where the next meal was coming from, so it made sense to chow down on energy-dense foods when one could.
Sweetness is a joy and a biological imperative – a “deep, deep ancient craving,” according to Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman, (think mother’s milk). It’s no accident we prefer ripe to unripe fruits, because ripe fruits are sweeter and easier to digest. And their seeds are mature enough to survive the trip through our alimentary canal and back on out to the good earth where the cycle can begin again.
It’s also no accident we prefer sweet to bitter tastes, because our taste buds are designed to help us distinguish between sweet ripe food and bitter, sometimes harmful, even poisonous alkaloids. Way back when, it would have been a smart strategy to avoid bitter plants, just in case.
After all these years in the business of creating wonderfully decadent desserts, it never ceases to amaze me how often I am asked “how can you stay so thin, when you make such irresistible treats?” I often respond by pairing a profoundly simple line from In Defense of Food with my own homemade wisdom:
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants…” – Michael Pollan
“Followed guiltlessly by a luscious dessert, lovingly crafted from pure ingredients, like ours.” – Sandy Solmon
These two seemingly opposing points of view are perfectly compatible with my outlook on life; together, they are the underpinning of my personal approach to food and diet. When we eat well, but what we want and take our time of it — savoring each bite — it satisfies our deep, deep cravings and makes us happy. The irony of course is that when we choose to indulge, we tend not to overindulge. Ah, the mind’s conundrum!
If you find yourself at Expo Milano 2015 – or at any one of the thousand locations where Sweet Street desserts are sold – have yourself a piece of Our Big Apple Pie. It’s mostly plants (wink, wink), with mounds of tart fresh crisp apples, cinnamon’d apple cider, and crunchy granola’d crumbs. Savor it guiltlessly, with gusto and perhaps a caffè. It’s La Dolce Vita!
Artist Judi Harvest has a passion for all things honey and I am passionate about the beauty and philosophic perspective of her work. This piece is part of my personal art collection, and reminds me each day of how precious the natural balance of our world is. The sculptor-painter-environmentalist has been creating artworks inspired by honeybees since 2006 when she learned about Colony Collapse Disorder and the massive, worldwide loss of honeybees. She decided to link her honey bee-inspired artworks to another group facing extinction, the glassmakers of Murano, Venice. “DENATURED: Honeybees + Murano” – a 2013 exhibition on the Grand Canal, at Scola dei Battioro e Tiraoro, Campo San Stae – began with Ms. Harvest creating a permanent honeybee garden on the grounds of the Linea Ariana glass factory, planting it with trees and flowers and establishing colonies of imported bees. She collected their honey, and packaged and displayed it at the gallery along with honeycomb textured glass sculptures she made in Murano.