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Sweet and Low

A Family Story

Rich Cohen

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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Sweet and Low
PART ONE1.Cumberland Packing, the company that manufactures Sweet'N Low, occupies a boxy building across the street from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It sits amid the factories of Fort Greene, the last of the city's vanishing industrial base. The neighborhood is ringed by housing projects, dark windows looking out on the long skies over Williamsburg,.In the summer of 2003, I drove to the factory to talk to my uncle Marvin, the president of the company. I had not seen much of him since my grandmother died. I gave my name at the door and was told to go around the side of the building,
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  • Reading at Google

    The author reads at Google NYC on June 20th, 2007.

  • Sweet and Low by Rich Cohen--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from and hear Rich Cohen read from his book Sweet and Low, the bittersweet, hilarious story of Ben Eisenstadt, who invented sugar packets and Sweet'N Low, and amassed the great fortune that would later destroy his family. It is a story of immigrants, Jewish gangsters, and Brooklyn; of sugar, saccharine, obesity, and diet crazes; of jealousy, betrayal, and ambition.

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REVIEWS

Praise for Sweet and Low

"Hooray for Benjamin Eisenstadt, without whom there would be no Sweet 'N Low - and hooray for Rich Cohen, without whom there would be no Sweet and Low! With the command of the best historians and a born-memoirist's knack for the unexpectedly profound, Cohen takes us on a hilarious, utterly engrossing tour of the Jewish-American Century through the improbable story of his family, beginning with grandpa Ben, Brooklyn counterman-cum-millionaire-inventor. It's a story of ambition, corruption, fortunes won and nearly lost, and - above all - how families fall apart." --Jonathan Mahler

"I love this book. SWEET AND LOW is the amazing story of an industry I knew nothing about--and a product that's on every table--and of the incredible family that somehow created it, written by one of America's best journalists." --Larry King

"Sweet and Low is the history of the sweet tooth and the Machievellian family that tamed it. I love this book. Rich Cohen is the funniest disinherited man alive."
--Patricia Volk, author of STUFFED

"This remarkable book is an exhilarating read. Hilarious, rueful, sparkling and brainy, It bridges the personal and the larger picture with style and panache. I loved every page of it."--Phillip Lopate

"If you're only going to read one history of sugar alternatives / walking tour of Brooklyn and Guyland / rags-to-riches immigrant family tragicomedy this year... that's probably one more than most everyone else. But SWEET AND LOW, which is all of those things and much more, shouldn't be missed. It is the kind of book you want to read aloud to your friends, hoping they might mistakenly think that you're that funny, that knowledgeable, and that brave." --Jonathan Safran Foer

Praise for Tough Jews:

"The stories Cohen tells are marvelous, and the writing [is] good enough to cause one to reread a page in order to savor the description." --Vincent Patrick, The New York Times Book Review

Praise for Lake Effect:

"So outrageous and so true. . . . the book rockets along, powered by the high octane of Cohen's candor [and] off-beat observations." -The New York Times Book Review

"Contains lines so heartbreakingly apt and funny I stopped to reread constantly. Cohen is a natural." -Jonathan Lethem

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Rich Cohen

  • Rich Cohen is the author of Tough Jews, The Avengers, 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.
  • Rich Cohen © Jeremy Medoff
    Rich Cohen
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    Sweet and Low

    A Family Story

    Rich Cohen

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