3dc15512-465d-11e5_1170605hAnna Katharina Schaffner at The Times Literary Supplement:

We are, it seems, pre-determined to love the taste of all things sweet. Evolutionary biologists argue that survival once depended on our ability to take in quickly high amounts of nutritional energy, a major source of such energy being found in carbohydrates, which include sugar. As frugivores, we generally prefer our fruit as ripe as possible, its degree of edibility being signalled by sweetness, too. While sweetness signals calories, bitterness in contrast may indicate the presence of toxins. It appears that our predilection for sweetness is, like the incest taboo, a cross-cultural phenomenon, and that it is ubiquitous and, in all likelihood, innate: the facial expressions of new-borns, for example, display unambiguous pleasure when sugar is placed on their tongues. We appear, moreover, to have raided beehives for millennia: there is evidence in Mesolithic cave paintings that feeding on honey has always been part of our primate nature. We share our love of sweetness with most other mammals, the sole exception being felines.

Psychoanalysts would mobilize a different model to explain our affection for candies, cakes and chocolates, pointing to the sweetness of mother’s milk, and to the fact that, colic notwithstanding, this earliest of our encounters with nourishment tends to be firmly aligned with comfort and pleasure. Another core function of the consumption of sweets is thus also to provide solace, by transporting us back into the domain of the oral stage where the sensory responses of the mouth and taste buds reigned supreme. As Proust has shown, madeleines and their equivalents can also be the vehicles of memory, taking us back to childhood.

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