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Sweet and Low

A Family Story

Author: Rich Cohen

Sweet and Low

Sweet and Low

About This Book

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...

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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.

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Reading Guide

In The News

“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 . . . recounted with uncommon acuity and wit.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“How decadent to indulge in Rich Cohen's rollicking account of his family and the business it built. . . . 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. . . . It's a guilty pleasure--sort of like sugar without calories.” —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. . . . He moves from journalistic objectivity to the intensely personal with ease, enjoying the kind of access that historians almost never get.” —The Washington Post

“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.” —Time

“Cohen tells a fascinating story about family bonds in his quest to discover why his mother was cast out. His skewering of his relatives is merciless. . . . Plenty of writers have dissected their less-than-perfect families.Dealing with the issue with this much heart, though--that's extraordinary.” —People

“Hilarious.” —Newsweek

“This book is an absolute pleasure: expansive, fascinating, funny and full of historical tidbits to read aloud to anyone around.” —

“Never less than fascinating . . . Sweet and Low might as well be a Balzacian nineteenth-century novel complete with a crisis, a contested will, and a tragic resolution.” —Los Angeles Times

“Unfailingly entertaining . . . Echoes the cadences of such literary antecedents as Saul Bellow.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Cohen writes entertainingly, lining up characters like objects in a curio cabinet. . . . He is an unusually nimble writer, capable of casually broaching grander themes. By balancing his more ambitious material with Eisenstadt family lore, and moving the drama away from the money he'll never see, he makes the story of Sweet'N Low something more than just a pleasant taste that lingers in the mouth.” —The New York Observer

“Cohen is one talented storyteller, and Sweet and Low is a great read. . . . Cohen also offers good servings of history on related topics--the sugar trade, the diet craze, the migration of Jews to New York--much of which provides a helpful backdrop to the story. At the heart of this tale is his family, a cast of characters who, owing to Cohen's gifts as a writer, are neither lionized nor demonized.” —Library Journal

About the Creators

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