Sweet and Low

A Family Story

By Rich Cohen
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374272296, 288pp.)

Publication Date: April 4, 2006

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback, Paperback, Compact Disc

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Description

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 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. 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 naïfs 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 Baltimore 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




About the Author

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.




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

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