Thursday, January 26, 2017

Oh, the Sweetness

Hey, Friends.

It's been a hot second since we last discussed my fab book group, and since we are meeting tonight I thought we could check in on it.  (You can find the last post about it over here.)

Tonight we will be discussing Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark. Too lazy to click on the link to find out what the book is all about?  Fine.  I'll paste the blurb from Amazon here for you.

"It's 1973, and David Leveraux has landed his dream job as a Flavorist-in-Training, working in the secretive industry where chemists create the flavors for everything from the cherry in your can of soda to the butter on your popcorn.

While testing a new artificial sweetener--"Sweetness #9"--he notices unusual side-effects in the laboratory rats and monkeys: anxiety, obesity, mutism, and a generalized dissatisfaction with life. David tries to blow the whistle, but he swallows it instead.

Years later, Sweetness #9 is America's most popular sweetener--and David's family is changing. His wife is gaining weight, his son has stopped using verbs, and his daughter suffers from a generalized dissatisfaction with life. Is Sweetness #9 to blame, along with David's failure to stop it? Or are these just symptoms of the American condition?

David's search for an answer unfolds in this expansive novel that is at once a comic satire, a family story, and a profound exploration of our deepest cultural anxieties. Wickedly funny and wildly imaginative, Sweetness #9 questions whether what we eat truly makes us who we are."

Sounds interesting, right?  I was unaware when I picked it that it had also gotten the "Colbert Bump". No, that really is a thing. --> Colbert Bump

Now, how to decorate and make snacks for a book group centered around an artificial sweetener  that is pervading the food we eat?

This is the cover of the edition of the book that I read:

Bright pink sweetness.

I immediately had one idea of what to make for my book group, just from seeing the cover.  Friends, you might consider me to be a touch on the twisted side, or maybe the slightest bit evil when you see this. I like to think of it more as giving my book group a double dog dare.  

Strawberry cake with bright pink frosting, and pink sprinkles that look exactly like the picture of Sweetness #9 on the book cover.  

It had to be done, really.  I feel I would be remiss if I didn't try to freak them out a little bit by using something that looked just like the sweetener in the book.

Slight spoiler here, folks.

By the end of the book, our flavorist has moved to the West Coast and is living on a farm, raising organic produce and making small-batch organic sauerkraut that he sells.  Obviously, I had to do something that involved sauerkraut.  

Table view

I decided to try to make the table look as much like the book cover as possible, so I went with baby blue to make that hot pink cake pop!

And no, I was not taking a swipe at Diet Coke by including it in tonight's festivities.  I always have it as an option at book group. Lemonade joined it tonight as the other option.

The decorations were a bit harder to come up.  I had a epiphany while wandering the dollar store this morning, getting the tablecloth and things.  Why not just decorate it with packets or artificial sweeteners?  That would be awesome!  And since the sweetener in the book was supposed to be this huge success that had invaded every aspect of America's food, why not some little party toppers?

Sugar-like substances

I also found some fun art that had been created for the book.

And related reading/viewing materials, of course.

Beyond my whacked-out idea of fun decorations and food, Friends, the book actually is a good read. I found the plot a little sluggish in the middle, and then the end seemed to wrap up really quickly.  It will definitely make you think twice about what the hell you are actually eating.  It also had writing that was really enjoyable. 

Three of my favorite passages from the book are:

"The physical and spiritual wonders of love.  It was all out there waiting for me, but it was also a fleeting fantasy."

"The questions that undermine our faith don't arrive through deep meditation and diligent study.  They pop up like soldiers from a foxhole, ready to shoot you down before you even have the time to realize you are dead."

"What do we do, David? We tell people, 'This is what a strawberry tastes like,' and eventually that's what they come to believe: this is what a strawberry tastes like."

It was a pretty successful night!  And in case you were wondering, Friends -- they totally ate some of the pink cake!  My book group s awesome.

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