Cheapskate's Guide to the Finer Things in Life
Get sweet on the history of desserts at free MFAH lecture
Hey, Sugar, tonight’s our chance to learn from a scholarly source some great new excuses — I mean, sound reasons — for why we all scream for ice cream, crave chocolate, and salivate at the sight of attractively displayed sweets.
And no, it’s not glandular. That’s so old-school.
Our society’s collective sugar tooth is “deeply rooted in history,” according to the description of tonight’s free Artful Thursday lecture at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, presented by independent scholar and curator, Dr. Tacey Rosolowski.
She will trace the evolution of “ever more playful and spectacular confections” throughout the past 500 years in her lecture, entitled “Sweet Yearnings: Dessert in Culture and History.”
The title alone makes my mouth water. I just hope I can make it through the first 10 minutes without needing a sugar fix, much less 500 years, since you can’t eat in the MFAH’s pristine Brown Auditorium.
It all started with elitist eye appeal back in the Renaissance, according to this month’s Artful Thursday notice, which lured me in with its depiction of Donald Baechler’s “Hundred Pound Ice Cream Cone” collage. Way back in the day, sumptuous sugar treats were cleverly designed by art and architectural experts for popes, kings and nobility. Good to know, up front. That’s excellent evidence of your good taste, right there.
Then the sugar industry erupted in the 17th and 18th centuries. That made sugar accessible to the rest of the population, who quickly realized the nobles were on to a good thing.
As she traces the historical and cultural paths that sugar has taken to latch onto our taste buds, Dr. Rosolowski will emphasize that, at heart, desserts have always been “a social art form that expresses the human need for shared memories and meaning.”
OK, hold it right there. The last time I enjoyed a sweet dessert, it was a solo indulgence in the privacy of my own home. I went to my refrigerator, removed, and promptly inhaled a hearty slice of my most recently acquired, devastatingly divine dessert addiction. That would be the cold carrot soufflé, magnificently displayed in all its luscious orange glory in the fiendishly appealing gourmet deli section of my neighborhood Kroger.
It seems to me that the consumption of a dessert entitled “carrot” (a vegetable) and “soufflé” (made with eggs) can be nutritionally as well as existentially justified, in the event that you have a similar concern about rationalizing your indulgences.
In fact, I’ve already put this scrumptious soufflé in the same “Justifiable Sweets” category as the green tea gelato that I enjoy with my friends at Paciugo Gelato & Caffe, in the same shopping center as my Kroger, whenever I feel the human need for shared memories and meaning.
At the 6:30 p.m. MFAH lecture, beverages and sweet treats will be provided by the Buffalo Speedway Starbucks, which, interestingly, is located right across the street from my favorite Kroger and Paciugo’s. Yet another sign of my extraordinarily good taste.