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Sweet and Low by Richard Cohen bills itself as "the unauthorized true story of one Brooklyn family." And what a family. Cohen, the disinherited grandson of the artificial sweetener Sweet 'n' Low's inventor, combines two parts Horatio Alger-memoir, one part cultural commentary and three parts personal criticism into a fascinating snapshot of American life, immigrant experience and a broad sermon on the perils of fortune. Cohen's maternal grandfather, Ben Eisenstadt, a mid-grade inventor and Brooklyn restaurateur concocts the idea of selling sugar in individual packets--a revolutionary concept in the age of crusty, unsanitary sugar dispensers. His idea stolen by the big sugar companies, Cohen squeaks out a post-war living selling his packets in their shadow until he and his son, Marvin, invent the formula for the saccharine sweetener and catch the first big wave of the American diet craze. Those little pink packets create a vast fortune soon tarnished by interfamily squabbles, Mafia influence, FDA edicts and, mostly, the baser aspects of human nature--greed, jealousy and pride. Cohen, a writer for Rolling Stone and The New Yorker, among other publications, weaves a compelling and often biting narrative about his mother's family. Using those pink packets as metaphor, he paints a dystopic portrait of the American Dream, that, in his family's case, was as devoid of nourishment as any artificial sweetener.--Jeremy Pugh
Disinherited from the family fortune built by his maternal grandfather, Ben Eisenstadt, who invented the artificial sweetener Sweet'N Low, Cohen mines a wealth of family history in this funny, angry, digressive memoir. Ben worked as a short-order cook during the Depression and conceived of but failed to patent the sugar packet before he and his son Marvin hit pay dirt in the 1950s with the saccharin formula for Sweet'N Low. Today a distant third to Equal and Splenda, Sweet'N Low is run by Marvin's son Jeff, who took over after Marvin and several other chief officers were charged with tax evasion and criminal conspiracy in 1993. This story of the family-owned, Brooklyn-based company is, at its heart, a tale of immigrant strife and Cohen's fractious Jewish clan, including his grandmother Betty, for whom "love is finite," and his hypochondriac, housebound Aunt Gladys ("a tongue probing a sore"), who connived to eliminate her sister (Cohen's mother) from Betty's will. Though Cohen often dollies back in a self-conscious if breezy effort to pad his memoir with big ideas—the history of artificial sweeteners, the post-WWII weight-watching craze, etc.—the real grace of his writing (seen in Tough Jews) lies in the merciless, comic characterizations of his relatives. Photos. (Apr. 11)
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I love non fiction biography about entrepreneurs, including the titans of industry such as JP Morgan, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Jack Gilbert
Quite an interesting story of the family and their plight in producing "Sweet and Low" a sugar substitute..Published 1 month ago by tweety
I really like Rich Cohen's books(maybe because we are north shore Jews of the same age) and this one is no exception. Read morePublished 2 months ago by ADE/29
This is a fantastic book. The story is very interesting and Rich Cohen has a special gift of being able to interweave numerous stories in a seamless manner. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Adam J. Loewy
Rich Cohen is a great writer, and I really enjoyed this book. It was a very entertaining way to learn some of the history of artificial sweeteners (or sugar substitutes).Published 19 months ago by Erin S.
what a story. you just can't believe it. you'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll shout angry words and then you'll give it to your best friend and hope they give it back to you when... Read morePublished 21 months ago by frank silverstein
The pink cover grabbed my attention initially. I know that color well. I have torn open thousands of packets in that shade as I gratify and sustain my unrepentant vice: unsweetened... Read morePublished 23 months ago by BOB
I certainly learned much more than I cared to know about this family. Sometimes, it's better just to know as an outsider and enjoy the product. Read morePublished on October 22, 2012 by Amazon Customer
This book is an intricate composite of time, history, family, business, organized crime, investigation and dysfunction. Read morePublished on November 26, 2011 by L. Jones