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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Soda Politics

How well do you know the soda industry? [quiz]

The history of soda is full of Norman Rockwell paintings, nostalgic Americana, athletes and other celebrities—so many familiar faces that soda companies seem like the industry next door. But these are the same companies that use municipal water supplies in drought-stricken areas and spend large amounts of money on lobbying. So how much do you actually know about the soda industry? Take the quiz and find out.

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Wine globalization set to continue

The past two decades have seen globalization of the world’s wine markets proceed like never before, in both speed and comprehensiveness. There was a degree of trade expansion in the five decades to World War I but, until the late 20th century, interactions across continents involved little more than the exporting of vine cuttings and traditional production expertise.

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Twelve important figures in the modern history of wine

Many people have influenced the world of wine over the course of the last 400 years. They have changed, developed, and perfected the winemaking process, introduced grapes and viticulture to different continents, and left their mark on an industry that has been with us since the dawn of civilization.

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Wine around the world [infographic]

It’s a multi-million dollar global industry. It’s been with us since the dawn of civilization. And it’s constantly developing. The wine business is an intriguing marker of human activity – economic changes, consumer fashions, globalization, social and technological developments.

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9780199313396 - Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

The symbolism of sweetness

Given the evolutionary origin of religion among humans, it is no surprise that symbolism would also be attributed to sweet foods. Across many cultures, sweetness prevails as a positive symbol, representing joyous occasions and victories. In recognition of these sweet symbols, we’ve compiled our favorites from The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets into a gallery we hope you’ll enjoy perusing as much as we enjoyed creating it.

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Why do we prefer eating sweet things?

Is the “sweet tooth” real? The answer may surprise you. Humans vary in their preference towards sweet things; some of us dislike them while others may as well be addicted. But for those of us who have a tendency towards sweetness, why do we like what we like? We are hardly limited by type; our preference spans across both food and drinks, including candy, desserts, fruits, sodas, and even alcoholic beverages.

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Down the doughnut hole: fried dough in art

Fried dough has been enjoyed for centuries in various forms, from the celebratory zeppole of St. Joseph’s Day to the doughnuts the Salvation Army distributed to soldiers during World War I. So important were doughnuts for boosting troop morale that when World War II came around, the Red Cross followed closely behind the US Army as it advanced across Europe, offering doughnuts from trucks specially outfitted with vats for deep-frying.

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Darra Goldstein on the history of sugar

Sugar has had an important hand in many facets of history, not all of it fun and games (but certainly not all of it dreary, either). Did you know fudge played a huge part in American women’s college education? or that slavery in sugar plantations was rampant? We asked Darra Goldstein a number of questions on sugar and its history, unearthing the good, the bad, and everything in between.

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9780199313396 - Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Five unusual ingredients in sweets

Though many of us are familiar with the use of fresh fruits in desserts, flavorings in candy, and other ubiquitous ingredients, a great deal are unusual. They’re unusual in the sense that they’re “not commonly occurring,” or that we believe them to be so. With that, here are five ingredients you might find, but not expect, in your next dessert.

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Going sour: sweet words in slang

Slang—mocking, sneering, casting a jaundiced eye on the world’s proprieties—is by its nature sour. It finds approval hard, congratulation challenging, and affection almost impossible. Yet even if slang’s oldest meaning of “sugar” is money, and the second oldest a euphemism for the most common term for defecation, slang, for all its skepticism, cannot resist the tempting possibilities of “sweet.”

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Real change in food systems needs real ethics

In May, we celebrated the third annual workshop on food justice at Michigan State University. Few of the people who come to these student-organized events doubt that they are part of a social movement. And yet it is not clear to me that the “social movement” framing is the best way to understand food justice, or indeed many of the issues in the food system that have been raised by Mark Bittman or journalists such as Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan or Barry Estabrook.

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9780199313396 - Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Are you a sugar scholar?

How much do you know about all things sweet? Are you an obsessive “Top-tier Sugar Scholar”? Or are you a dabbling “Sugar Novice”? No matter your level of scholarship, if sweetness and obscure facts are your game, we have just the perfect quiz for you.

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Foods and festivals of Ramadan around the world

On 17 June, the new moon signaled the start of Ramadan (or Ramzan as it’s called throughout South Asia), the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar in which observant Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, smoking, and sex during daylight hours. Increased religious devotion sets the tone for the month as Muslims gather for special prayers, acts of charity, and Qur’anic recitations in gratitude and devotion to God.

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Sweetness around the world

No matter where in the world you go, pastries are a universal treat. From Turkish baklava to Italian cannolis, French croissants to American cherry pie, these morsels of sweetness are a culinary tradition that knows no borders. Whether you’re boarding an overseas flight or hanging around the neighborhood, we’ve hand-picked several pastry shops from the Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets to add to your personal itinerary.

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9780199313396 - Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Darra Goldstein on food scholarship

What do Russians poets eat? When does food heritage become international politics? How has sugar been used as medicine? Darra Goldstein, the editor-in-chief to The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, shares her insights on how a three-year project transformed into the lively compendium of all things sweet. She takes us through the process of what it was like to oversee 265 contributors and over 600 entries, and the journey she took to get where she is today.

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