Sweet and Low: Problems That Come in Little Packets

Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times:

Cohen190“Sweet and Low” is the story of those ubiquitous little pink packets of sugar substitute that you see in restaurants and diners and coffee shops — the story of the role saccharine played in the diet revolution that began sweeping America in the 1950’s and the story of the artificial sweetener wars that raged in the 80’s and 90’s.

It is the story of how Ben Eisenstadt, the son of Polish immigrants, lived the American Dream: how this short-order cook turned an old Brooklyn cafeteria into a factory called Cumberland Packing, invented the sugar packet and Sweet’N Low, and made a tidy fortune. It is also the story of how that sweetest of dreams turned sour, when scandal overtook the company in the 1990’s with allegations of influence-buying, tax evasion and possible mob ties being lobbed at some of its top brass.

But most of all, “Sweet and Low” is the story of the Eisenstadt family, as written by Ben Eisenstadt’s grandson Rich Cohen — a rollicking, utterly compelling family saga that is part detective story, part morality tale, part tragedy and part farce. It is a story peopled with eccentrics and naïfs and scoundrels, and a story recounted with uncommon acuity and wit.

More here.