Sunday, July 27, 2014
Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark
3.5 out of 5 stars - "You are what you eat."
Everyone knows that much of what many of us choose to eat isn't probably the most nutritious or most healthy of diets. The reasons why we choose one particular food over another, or have a preference for sweet or salty, or want something quick and easy are all those that companies who make flavorings want to "help" us with! The description of the book really is perfect when it reads -- "this book is a cross between FAST FOOD NATION and THE CORRECTIONS." Having read both, and enjoyed them, I concur.
This is a wide ranging fictional account of a man, David Leveraux, who's hired to concoct, using chemicals, all those various flavorings for food from that buttery taste on your microwave popcorn to the artificial "sweetner #9" used as ubiquitously as fructose corn syrup is now in more products than you'd ever imagine. In addition, there's a little problem with the "red dyes" and other additives that enhance the taste of the food and drink you consume. Of course there's danger there, as our character finds out when his family starts falling apart -- his wife is gaining weight, his daughter is in a funk alternating between being a vegan and also rebelling against her father's life work, and their son has suddently stopped using verbs when speaking. The problem is this -- David knew there were some issues with the sweetner in particular because he had been involved with early animal testing of the product. Instead of doing the whistleblow, he moved on from that job to another with a new flavoring company run by a man who didn't just serve during WW II, he "served Hitler his dinner."
Years pass with ups and downs as David tries to come to terms with the changes in the food industry from taste to form to delivery. The book is both social commentary and anecdotal with what may or may not be accurate information about the actual products which we know as "food." It's funny sometimes, but mostly scary. Definitely it made me rethink every single item I have to eat in my house and got me to do some intense label reading.
I gave it 3.5 stars only because it dragged in parts and because it is fiction, I'm not sure it's meant to be alarmist or entertaining and without a bibliography I'm uncertain what part of this is fact. The narrative was all over the place with inclusion of a lot of material that I found hard to completely understand as there were time shifts. The main character was quite well developed as was his wrestle with his conscience. The others not so much, except for Ernst Eberhardt, the owner of FlavAmerica where David works. His colleagues are quite the unique set!
There's a lot of great material inside this book that I could write quote after quote, but I'll leave that to the reader to discover. I did enjoy this novel and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the current state of our food products and who might want to take another look at their own diet.
Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for the e-book ARC to review.