Desserts are decadent, delicious and designed to be enjoyed. They have been since man located the first sweet food . Those who do not know Chinese and other Asian food histories think their culture, whatever it may be, knew about desserts long before the Chinese did. How wrong they are. Sweets were known in Han dynasty times(206 BCE to 220 CE),and before. THey were even part of Neolithic cultures.
How do we know? As sure as kids like to put their hands in the cookie jar, there was the first man who put his into a nest of honey. He used that find to mix with other foods to sweeten them; and he used honey to make wines, not the grape wines we know today, but the grain wines of yesteryear. Sweet wines are mentioned on oracle bones and in early books such as the I-Ching,also known as the Book of Changes.
What else is known?Dessert, in the dictionary, means:Sweets usually served last at dinner or other meals. The word sweet or kan, is one of China's(and the world's )five basic tasted. The useof glutinous rice in dishes is of such prominence that this very food item is called "sweet rice".In addition, early Chinese wines were first used for sacrificial purposes,and they were sweet.
Wine,when first made,used cooked rice or millet with sprouted grains of fruit mixed with water. After a few days,these mixtures became sweet alcohols. These were the dominant wines found in the earliest of tombs. Writings in these very tombs document that consuming sweet foods,and probably sweet drinks,were ways to heal muscles. There are other examples, all found in the earliest of writings in China and other parts of Asia.
Desserts do not have origins in the modern world. One part ripe berries with two parts of honey and another part of berry or grape juice, called tzu, was boiled five or six times. This was known as mi chien. Berries and other foods made this way were dried in the air, then used at special times. How special?From the earliest of times,foods made similarly such as plums, Chinese strawberries, pieces of peeled arrowroot,and quince were went to royal familied along with sweet wines.
Sweet wines were the dominant beverage sent as tribute as early as 200 BCE. Kings and emperors used them on special occasions. They offered them to their guests agter eating, and sometimes between meals. When eaten during the latter times, these snack foods were overindulged in.
Honey was probably the first sweetener used to make these items and other dessert foods. Malt sugar came into use a bit later, and cane sugar some time after that. Even sour fruits were made sweet; some were carved into the shape of flowers, others were made sweet and sold plain-looking in the marketplace.
Early sweets made by or sold to ordinary folk were reported available on the streets of hangzhou and other cities. Litchis and persimmons were popular; interestingly when these were written about,they were called "cakes". They were available and for sale as were lotus seeds, arrowroot slices and watermelon strips.
Yes, desserts were designed to be enjoyed from the first written record until today . Yes ,they are decadent;and most importantly,they are delicious. Restaurants should use them as tribute to their customers. They should give out a few small sweets as a snack after meals are finished. They can make small gift bags with a few of them inside, attaching them to businesss cards or take-away menus. They can sell larger packages of these sweets for customers to take home. They can serve as a continuous reminder of the meals they enjoyed . Use them to replace, or in addition to, fortune cookies. Giving sweets can aid the bottom line and leave customers with sweet thoughts anout your eatery.