Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bookshelf: Sweet and Low

Looking for a good book, but can't settle on a genre? Consider picking up Rich Cohen's Sweet and Low: A Family Story, which manages to marry a dysfunctional family memoir with the history of Brooklyn, the history of sugar and sugar substitutes, a business history of Cumberland Packing and an overview of New York City Jewish life. But that's not all. It's also a story about the mob, crooked businessmen, smooth-talking politians and a pre-Enron corporate corruption scandal of magnificent proportions.

You see, Cohen is the disinherited grandson of Ben Eisenstadt, founder of Cumberland Packing and the inventor of both the sugar packet and Sweet & Low sweetener. Cut off from the business and the fortune that went with it, Cohen has a major bone to pick with rest of the family.

His bitterness comes through like saccharin's aftertaste, but the cast of characters (nearly all of whom are Cohen's relatives) is so colorful, the storyline so unbelievable, I couldn't stop turning the pages.