As both the anthropologist Sidney Mintz and the historian Jean-Louis Flandrin have documented, it was only recently that the instinct for devouring sweets met the availability of abundant sugar. In pre-Crusades medieval European diets, only honey and fruit and other “natural” sweeteners were available, and they were mostly used in savory dishes. For centuries, sugar was a spice as rare as myrrh and as precious as saffron: an expensive extra used to give food taste and color. Only in the Renaissance did sugar slowly, through the New World, become widely current.
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