You’ve just sat down to a fine, savory meal. You’re ready to burst, couldn’t eat one more thing. Until your sweet tooth starts to remind you that you’re in for one more treat. A silver tray is set before you and you lift your heavy arm, mouth watering, and reach for the marzipan coated eels?!
It can’t be true. Sugar coated fish, game birds dripping in sugar sauce…this isn’t dessert! Oh…but it was. Dessert, like all things, is transient. It travels through time, molded by fashion, culture, and money. To discover where it started, we must travel back to Europe in the 1500s.
Years ago, dessert wasn’t its own course. Great lavish meals adorned massive tables piled high with savory, sweet, rich, and unimaginable combinations. Sugar was currency, a status symbol. Unavailable to the masses, sugar rained down on dinner tables in the most peculiar ways to add an unmatched richness to mealtime dishes and the pockets of those who ate them. Sweet pastries and fruits lay in-between dishes to serve as palate cleansers among salty bites. But this wasn’t enough. Sugar meant status. Sugar was in high demand, and those who could get their hands on it made sure everyone knew they had it. Sugar became an accessory to just about everything. It wasn’t enough to simply have sweetness in between dishes, it must be in them! Deep dishes full of game birds, rich stew, and salty fish were coated in thick sugar sauces and baked into sugary marzipan candy… just because they could be.
As economic and cultural trends rose and fell through time, sugar went with them. Sugar production increased and it was no longer just for the posh. It could no longer fall like diamonds onto a dish and instantly become desirable. Despite fads and trends changing, people have not. What do we still do with new ideas that are suddenly available to the masses? We find a way to doctor them, and make them new and desirable again. So came what we know today as dessert.
Suddenly sugar was more available, anyone could add it to their supper. So what were the rich to do? Take the grandiose use of sugar and whittle it down into a delicate, refined, dainty, complicated treat that required elegance, skill, and money for other posh ingredients. Dessert was now its own course, meant to clear the table of the savory and provide sweet relief for the stuffed bellies stationed around the table. Small shops specializing in these sweet refined treats emerged, making dessert something of elegance and control, not overindulgence.
We are rather ecstatic that we don’t have to serve truffles full of eel, but are buckled in for the continued development of desserts! We are happy to be a part of its journey and are happy to take you along with us. Order a box of truffles for yourself, and see the deep rich history of sugar melt away on your palate.