Sweet and Low: A Family Story

Sweet and Low A Family Story Sweet and Low is the amazing bittersweet hilarious story of an American family and its patriarch a short order cook named Ben Eisenstadt who in the years after World War II invented the sugar pac

  • Title: Sweet and Low: A Family Story
  • Author: Rich Cohen
  • ISBN: 9780374272296
  • Page: 343
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Sweet and Low is the amazing, bittersweet, hilarious story of an American family and its patriarch, a short order cook named Ben Eisenstadt who, in the years after World War II, invented the sugar packet and Sweet N Low, converting his Brooklyn cafeteria into a factory and amassing the great fortune that would destroy his family It is also the story of immigrants to the Sweet and Low is the amazing, bittersweet, hilarious story of an American family and its patriarch, a short order cook named Ben Eisenstadt who, in the years after World War II, invented the sugar packet and Sweet N Low, converting his Brooklyn cafeteria into a factory and amassing the great fortune that would destroy his family It is also the story of immigrants to the New World, sugar, saccharine, obesity, and the health and diet craze, played out across countries and generations but also within the life of a single family, as the fortune and the factory passed from generation to generation The author, Rich Cohen, a grandson disinherited, and thus set free, along with his mother and siblings , has sought the truth of this rancorous, colorful history, mining thousands of pages of court documents accumulated in the long and sometimes corrupt life of the factor, and conducting interviews with members of his extended family Along the way, the forty year family battle over the fortune moves into its titanic phase, with the money and legacy up for grabs Sweet and Low is the story of this struggle, a strange comic farce of machinations and double dealings, and of an extraordinary family and its fight for the American dream Rich Cohen is the author of Tough Jews, The Avenger s, and Machers and Rockers, and the memoir Lake Effect His work has appeared in The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, among many other publications, and he is a contributing editor to Rolling Stone He lives in New York City A New York Times Notable Book of the YearA Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year Sweet and Low is the story of an American family and its patriarch, a short order cook named Ben Eisenstadt who, in the years after World War II, invented the sugar packet and Sweet N Low, converting his Brooklyn cafeteria into a factory and amassing the great fortune that would destroy his family It is also the story of immigrants to the New World, sugar, saccharine, obesity, and the health and diet craze, played out across countries and generations but also within the life of a single family, as the fortune and the factory passed from generation to generation The author, Rich Cohen, a grandson disinherited, and thus set free, along with his mother and siblings , has sought the truth of this rancorous, colorful history, mining thousands of pages of court documents accumulated in the long and sometimes corrupt life of the factor, and conducting interviews with members of his extended family Along the way, the forty year family battle over the fortune moves into its titanic phase, with the money and legacy up for grabs Sweet and Low is the story of this struggle, a strange comic farce of machinations and double dealings, and of an extraordinary family and its fight for the American dream A rollicking, utterly compelling family saga that is part detective story, part morality tale, part tragedy and part farce It is a story peopled with eccentrics and naifs and scoundrels, and a story recounted with uncommon acuity and wit Mr Cohen writes about his family with a mixture of affection, outrage and bafflement, startled and often in awe at the strangeness of his relatives and the bizarre trajectory of their lives He has not settled for writing a simple, straight ahead memoir, however Instead, he s intercut the story with tart and highly entertaining asides about everything from the history of Brooklyn to the history of the sugar business, from the legacy of the immigrant experience to the big business of diets and weight loss Cohen has managed to turn his family s rancorous history into a gripping memoir a small classic of familial triumph, travail and strife, and a telling and often hilarious parable about the pursuit and costs of the American Dream Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times Do not disinherit a man who makes his living with a pen He may exact revenge by splashing the family s boils and foibles in black and white on the pages of a spectacularly entertaining book That is the misfortune of the family of the late Benjamin Eisenstadt, self made scion behind those ubiquitous pink packages of fake sugar piled in bowls on restaurant tabletops the world over But it s a riotous reading experience for the rest of us, who get to enjoy Rich Cohen s roiling, boisterous, hysterical and weirdly scholarly remembrance of his messy, badly behaved Jewish clan in Sweet and Low Michael Ollove, The Balti Sun How decadent to indulge in Rich Cohen s rollicking acount of his family and the business it built, a book that aims mostly to settle old scores, air dirty laundry and answer decades of petty insults from relatives He paints vividly, and not flatteringly Cohen has a terrific eye for detail, the little things that affix people and places in our memories, the gestures and miscues that shape family history Reading him savage his family, you sometimes wonder, is he allowed to do this It s a guilty pleasure sort of like sugar without the calories Kate Zernike, The New York Times Book Review A wildly addictive, high octane narrative Cohen sashays with boisterous panache from the history of the sugar trade to grandmother Betty s brooch Cohen moves from journalistic objectivity to the intensely personal with ease, enjoying the kind of access that historians almost never get Is Rich Cohen, the grandson who got squat from the Sweet N Low millions, taking revenge No this book is about his mother, and the way that her family the whole saccharine sticky lot of them were truly and unnaturally awful to her, a woman who makes but brief appearances in the narrative and is never eulogized A woman who could have survived her vile relatives only through a tremendous inner strength It is this strength which, subtly, gloriously, Rich Cohen celebrates John Barlowe, Washington Post The rollicking saga of Grandpa Ben s business, taken over and stripmined by hooligans The battle overt his vast family fortune leads to feuds between siblings, corruption, lawsuits and the ultimate disintegration of the clan It is Cohen s good fortune to be on the side of the family that was disinherited Sweet revenge is the energy behind this glorious book Andrea Sachs, Time Alternately delicious and sour All these characters are portrayed with elegantly phrased detail, along with Cohen s insightful eye for the larger picture Sweet and Low might as well be a Balzacian 19th century novel complete with a crisis, a contested will and a tragic resolution Sweet and Low is never less than fascinating reading, both for what it says and what it doesn t Hell hath no fury like a writer deprived Melvin Bukiet, Los Angeles Times Book Review Sweet and Low is a wondrous evocation of an era and character types that won t be seen again Ron Grossman, Chicago Tribune The book is not just about settling scores Mr Cohen aims higher, writing not only about his family but also about the first Jewish settlers in N

    One thought on “Sweet and Low: A Family Story”

    1. In my first house I owned- a tiny bungalow that has since been abandoned -the neighbors had some outrageous family fights. These weren’t your typical domestic violence dealies between a man and his wife. Instead, it seemed the entire extended family would partake. Over time, I began to enjoy the theatrics. I would sit on my stoop, drink beer and giggle uneasily as this cast of characters humiliated themselves. So, it’s no wonder I enjoyed Sweet and Low by Richard Cohen. Cohen is jaded over h [...]

    2. Memoir of estrangement from a dysfunctional family + history of sugar and sugar substitutes + history of New York corruption = surprisingly compelling read. I actually laughed out loud a couple of times."There was an ancient form of primogeniture at play in the family; as the son of the oldest son, Cousin Jeffrey was golden. One week, Grandma Betty decided that a grandchild would, for no particular reason, have a party thrown in his or her honor, complete with cake and gifts. While standing in m [...]

    3. So I've been doing a crazy amount biking lately, which may I please just say is the best goddamn thing ever. I've gotten a little obsessive about it; like zero to biking everywhere, every day, all the time, inventing faraway errands to run just so I can bike to them, or only making plans in other neighborhoods because biking around Williamsburg isn't good enough, or just getting on the bike at midnight and zipping around because I can. I didn't bike in the hurricane (this guy did, though), but I [...]

    4. I found this book fascinating, in multiple ways. Since moving to Brooklyn, I love walking the streets of Carroll Gardens with the impressions stories of Brooklyn have given me. This is true for both of Jonathan Lethem novels, and now I'm happy to add to that with this wonderful story of small pink packet, and how it impacted the rise and fall of a truly Brooklyn family.Most of us are divided either by our love of sweet, or savory. It's as strong as politics or religion. You have to side, and you [...]

    5. I thought I would like this book since I like non-fiction with some drama and a bit of teaching involved. But I found the whole thing rather uninteresting. The family really had no redeeming features. The history of Sweet and Low (and the diet revolution) also was tiresome. I sped through to the end to see why the author's family was disinherited and ended up not caring.

    6. Not a huge fan - this was supposed to be an interesting look at the invention of Sweet 'N Low, how it created a family fortune, and the legal/mafia troubles that befell the company as told by a disinherited grandson. What it actually was, was a rambling history of Brooklyn, family squabbles, complaints about being disinherited (though the author makes it perfectly clear that of course his family didn't need the money, what with the chartered flights, player pianos, and Concorde jet rides he and [...]

    7. I had high hopes for this book buoyed by favorable reviews on . I invested time in what I thought was a pretty good method of potential book research, but this time it hit a snag. I had to make a new bookshelf for this book - unfinished by choice books. That probably says it all for me.If you really like a lot of history with your books, you will likely love this book. The author included a purposefully dated Xerox copy of an obituary that encapsulated Sweet and Low's founder and the company's p [...]

    8. "IN THE WEEK AFTER THE SACCHARIN BAN, CONGRESS RECEIVED MORE THAN A HUNDRED THOUSAND LETTERS, MORE THAN RECEIVED IN ANY COMPARABLE PERIOD DURING THE VIETNAM WAR."I have officially lost all of my faith in mankind, except for Rich Cohen. Cohen manages to fit all of fake sugar's (saccharin, cyclamate, aspartame, sucralose) history into a few pages--although I was constantly wondering why scientists kept discovering these chemical compounds by licking their fingers . . didn't we learn in 5th grade t [...]

    9. Couldn't make it to the end. This memoir about the family who brought us Sweet and Low was funny in parts, but way too heavy on history lessons for my taste. Along with the story of this family, which I think is pretty interesting, you also get pages and pages about how New York neighborhoods evolved and all kinds of background about inventions that have only a tangential connection to the story at hand. My suspicion is that the writer promised a book of a certain length and did the college-kid [...]

    10. I wanted to love this book, being a Brooklyn resident and appreciating the historical aspects of the family's history here. However, as much as I laughed at Cohen's telling of family tales, his repetitiveness became not only annoying but confusing. I struggled to keep track of all the family members and which generation they belonged to, and ultimately could care less what happened to them.I have too many other books waiting to be read to continue plodding on with this one.

    11. The writing was not particularly interesting or good but the historical fiction element was enjoyable and I suppose the family dynamics were somewhat interesting, but there didn't seem to be too many likable characters to be rooting for and they seemed a little flat. It's definitely a story and setting driven book.

    12. I thought this book sucked. I basically skimmed it in an attempt to find all this "family drama" that I never actually found. Hell, my family had more drama than this last week. And that was a light week for us.Thank God I only paid a dollar for this at a library book sale. Although I still feel like I overpaid.

    13. This is the story of the Sweet and Low company, as written by the extremely bitter, disinherited heir. Almost impossible to get through due to HORRENDOUS writing, despite seemingly fascinating subject matter and fabulous cover design. A huge disappointment!

    14. It's hard to imagine that this book would have been published if it hadn't been about a family connected to Sweet N Low. Moderately interesting, though the inter-family problems are either not clearly written or just not that serious. A light, entertaining read.

    15. This book, about how the fortune of the family owned business Sweet 'N Low fractures the members into haves and have nots, had great potential but in the end, I just didn't like the way it was written. It didn't engage me at all and I had to force myself to finish.

    16. Millions of little sweet, low, pink heirloomsThe pink cover grabbed my attention initially. I know that color well. I have torn open thousands of packets in that shade as I gratify and sustain my unrepentant vice: unsweetened ice tea with extra lemon and one or more of those little sweet, low pink packets. What kind of book lurks inside this American Splendor-esque graphic novel cover? Little pink junkie that I am, I told myself I had to read this book. Would it change my attitude toward my cons [...]

    17. There were two things about Sweet N Low: A Family Story that stood out for me. (1) Rich Cohen is a very good writer. He knows how to use metaphors and analogies to convey a point and does them in really funny ways. He's got a great sense of humor and used it to make what could have been a boring story much more engaging. (2) Cohen comes across as rather self-absorbed. I don't know of another author who's used a quasi-family scandal as a plot for a book. No doubt the Cohen family is unique. The a [...]

    18. Excellent double history, one of sweeteners from ancient times to Nutrasweet, and the other of the Eisenstadts, the family whose patriarch invented Sweet and Low and handed the factory down to his son. Neither of these histories is pretty. The two sentences that blew my mind were on page 88: "The British turned against slavery only when steam power and other advances made the harvesting and refining of sugarcane far less labor intensive. That is, slavery became reprehensible only when slaves wer [...]

    19. We all know how rare it is to literally laugh out loud while reading a book, yet I found myself doing so, to the point of tearing up. Full disclosure: I'm Jewish, and family has a generally similar Eastern European background, timeline of immigrating, American Dream, cultural worldview, so part of why I really liked this book is because I know "these" people, I know the brooch on every sweater in the same spot, I know how older sons are crowned the Mayor of their college, grad school, company, e [...]

    20. This isn't a book about Sweet and Low. This is a book about sugar, Brooklyn throughout the ages, the dieting craze, a dysfunctional family with money, corruption and Sweet and Low. Rich Cohen has written a memoir that was entertaining as well as informational. At some point I felt sorry for the company when alternative sugars came on the market (Don't. This company now makes Sugar in the Raw which I would steal by the handful from Starbucks, Stevia in the Raw, Agave in the Raw and Monk Fruit in [...]

    21. This book is written by the grandson of the inventor of Sweet and Low, the artificial sweetener. It tells the story of the company, but more than that, it tells the story of his family -- including how his parents were disinhereted. The history of Sweet and Low includes development of a sugar replacement just at the time when a large number of people started to become interested in dieting, possible ties with the mafia, embezzlement, and the politics of public health and food safety.The book is [...]

    22. To Rich Cohen’s credit he doesn’t let “Sweet and Low,” his memoir of the Eisenstadt family and its rise to fortune with its artificial sweetener, descend into a diatribe against the members of his family that engineered his disinheritance. He doesn’t let them off the hook, either, but he provides the kind of insider’s perspective that is all too rare in corporate histories. “Sweet and Low” is more than a mere corporate history,though; Cohen transforms the Cumberland Packing Compa [...]

    23. This was a story about the creation of sweet n' low, written by the grandson of the inventor. The book is part history of sugar/artificial sweeteners/New York City, and part memoir of the Eisenstadt and Cohen families. The Cohens, including Rich, the author, were written out of the Eisenstadt will, which denied them any share of the sweet n' low fortune. Rich wrote the book as an attempt to get to the bottom of why his mother was denied her share of the family fortune. The actual history of the [...]

    24. This memoir/history had a good mix of family drama, crime and the history of sugar substitutes. As someone who is actually allergic/intolerant to aspertame I found the history fascinating, and the family drama added some spice. However, it might be partly because I put the book down for several months before picking it back up, but some of the story of the family seemed to drag and become overly confused. The author goes back and forward in time, and names so many relatives and employees that th [...]

    25. This was a very strange story - the dark secrets and family feuds behind a seemingly mundane sweetener manufacturer. I’m not sure what I expected with regards to this book – it had been on my to-read list for so long I’d forgotten why I’d added it in the first place. But it didn’t disappoint. I’ll admit there were a few times when I thought the technical details about the industry could have been scaled down, & at times there just wasn’t enough dirt dishing for my liking. But a [...]

    26. excellent book. it is the story of the jewish immigrant who moved to brooklyn, NY from eastern europe in the early 1900s and founded the sugar packing company "sweet'n'low". it is partly a history lesson of what brooklyn first looked like when the dutch settled it several hundred years ago, it is a story of a dysfuntional family that became wealthy through sweet'n'low, and it also talks about the history of the american fad of dieting and how that fad has made the company successfull. it is by r [...]

    27. The comic-book graphics on the book's jacket feature Cohen exclaiming, "To be disinherited is to be set free!" Ain't it the truth! He describes the rise and fall of Sweet 'n' Low (yes, the sweet chemicals in the pink packet) from the viewpoint of an insider on the outside: due to family politics, Cohen's mother was cut out of his grandmother's will. His grandfather had originally bought the factory and patented Sweet 'n' Low's formula and appearance. Cohen seems surprisingly aware of his strengt [...]

    28. Really 3.5 stars. Was on track to be 4 stars, but it became a bit too catty towards the end - felt like he was revenging his family for cutting his mother and himself out of the inheritance just by writing the book - which started to feel like he was takng low blows. Also, I felt like he was trying to be really profound with the ending, and I thought it was pretty flat. HOWEVER, up to that point, it was a great book. Really interesting story of a family's self-destruction, the power of money, th [...]

    29. This was an excellent book. After reading the reviews I was a little nervous that it was going to be 300 pages of the author whining about not getting his inheritance. I was pleasantly suprised to find within these pages an indepth history of Sweet and Low, including the fight to ban saccharine, the power of the FDA, corrupt politicians as well as a good history on New York. While Cohen does address the fact that his branch of the family was written out of the fortune he does so only in the fina [...]

    30. Reviewers don't blame Eisenstadt scion Rich Cohen for bearing a grudge. The Los Angeles Times notes that "[h]ell hath no fury like a writer deprived," but in the hands of Cohen, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone and author of Tough Jews and The Avengers, the ire is transformed into compelling reading. Intimate family details__and not everyone is cast in the most flattering of lights__personalize a larger story of the family company and pre- and postwar Brooklyn.The only lapses? A grasp for [...]

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