“Most of all I would like more coming to terms with what happened…I think what needs to be done is for all of my fellow citizens in this country to understand what happened and to be able to say, this is what was done and now we must think about how to make the playing field level for all of us in this country, and by some ways for all of us eventually in the world. Because we can’t live by ignoring that past.” –Sidney Mintz

In this bonus edition of The Secret Ingredient, Raj Patel, Tom Philpott and Rebecca McInroy revisit the conversation with anthropologist Sidney Mintz about his seminal work “Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar In Modern History.”

The interview took place in September of 2015 and later that year on December 27th Dr. Mintz passed away.

In this extended interview, Mintz not only takes us through our prehistoric relationship to sweetness–from the bloody history of slavery and sugar production to our current state of the mass production and consumption of sweetness worldwide, but he also talks about his development as an anthropologist and thinker. He discusses his time as a student of anthropology and how he was able to study in Puerto Rico, along with who was influencing his thinking at the time. He also talks about how factories developed on the sugar plantations and the way slavery developed in the New World, as well as the role this brutal past plays in current volatile racial relations in the U.S.

As hurricanes continue to wreak havoc on the Caribbean and our hearts go out to all those who are suffering, we look to Mintz for wisdom and guidance in the days ahead.

“It was not just the land, it was not just the seeds, it was not just the tools, it was not just the transportation infrastructure. You had to have somebody who did all the digging, and the harvesting, and the taking care of the cotton plant. In the United States that had been resolved through enslaving Africans.” -Sven Beckert 

Cotton. Not quite a food item, but a plant nonetheless with a rather complicated history and an enduring relevance in our lives. Today, a typical day cannot pass without using this pillowy crop that rules our commodified lives.

In this edition of The Secret Ingredient with Raj Patel, Tom Philpott, and Rebecca McInroy: Sven Beckert, Harvard University professor, historian, and author of the 2014 book “Empire of Cotton,” discusses the significance of cotton as the most important commodity of the 19th century, as well as the violent history cotton production has in the Southern United States, and most importantly the pivotal role cotton plays in the enterprise of capitalism we know today.

We ‘d also like to welcome a very special guest to our show for a new segment called “Letter From a Correspondent,” it’s the world-renowned economist Dr. James K. Galbraith; author of, most recently, Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe.