I have a preference for eating sweets before a main savoury. Are there any cooking traditions where this is the norm? Secondly, why has the tradition of having a main savoury followed by sweets arisen? Why not the other way around?

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    This is more an anthropology question than a culinary one. I don't know of an SE site for this purpose. – SAJ14SAJ Apr 11 '13 at 12:58
  • One of the suggested related questions is a more general version of your second question: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/6260/… – Cascabel Apr 11 '13 at 14:19
  • I would tend to say that food history is a reasonable question as much as food science - they're essentially both a type of "why do we do what we do". – Cascabel Apr 11 '13 at 14:21
  • In South India, before a traditional full meal(generally only on festivals and the like), people eat a tiny mouthful of some dessert first before the actual savory meal and then end with the same dessert in a larger portion. I think the reasons are twofold. One, to begin with something sweet as an auspicious thing, where life will also have some sweetness yada yada and the other, I think more important reason to follow the savory before the sweet is so that you don't eat too much dessert and make yourself sick :) – Dharini Chandrasekaran Apr 11 '13 at 18:17
  • Meta on this type of question: meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/1701/… – SAJ14SAJ Apr 11 '13 at 18:56

Its pretty common in indian culture to eat sweets before eating savory stuff,

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Note (jefromi) I've edited this to fix the English as best I can, guessing at the meaning of some parts. A few bits I couldn't really tell what was meant, and just left intact - those are marked with a ⁺.

Sweets were (a long time ago) very expensive, as sugar was. People never finished their meals with sweets, unless they were very rich or it was a an important holiday to celebrate with a special and expensive food.

Normal people ate sweets (if they were lucky) on Sunday. Otherwise, at Christmas, Easter and a few other anniversaries. On other "normal" days "normal people" ate soups seasoned, if it at all, with lard and a few other herbal ingredients. "Normal people" ate meat once a week, mostly chicken, and found the protein, mostly in legumes and cereals.

So I do not think the practice of eating sweets (not even across the entire western world) could have become a tradition. I think if anything, that an average life of a poor person has led to favoring poor food, and other hearty foods rich but unhealthy⁺. As if to say: "First we fill the belly, then later there will be little room for the sweets."

Finally, in India they cannot eat meat (at least the common people). That refer back with sweets is completely understandable.⁺

If we start with poor food, then when time for sweets comes, we are not so hungry, and have little room space for an expensive food.

If they may not, such as in India, eat meat, then maybe they prefer start from any few they have.⁺

I don't know other examples, and don't see any examples besides India, that have historical reasons.⁺

Historical reasons become tradition.

We had honey from before roman times.

"Only after the Crusades did it begin to rival honey as a sweetener in Europe.... The Spanish began cultivating sugarcane in the West Indies in 1506 (and in Cuba in 1523). The Portuguese first cultivated sugarcane in Brazil in 1532. ...Regardless of which century table sugar production was discovered, it was a luxury in much of the world until the 18th century. ... In the 18th century, the demand for table sugar boomed in Europe, and by the 19th century it had become a human necessity... Beginning in the late 18th century, the production of sugar became increasingly mechanized....During the same century, Europeans began experimenting with sugar production from other crops... However, the beet-sugar industry really took off during the Napoleonic Wars".


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  • This is quite far from the question. The question was about eating sweet first instead of last, not about whether all people eat sweet food. – rumtscho Apr 24 '13 at 10:27
  • Are you trying to say that people ate sweet desserts last because they were special and expensive? We all understand that desserts used to be hard to come by, but I think we're all struggling to see what you're saying that has to do with the question. – Cascabel Apr 24 '13 at 13:56
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    I edited this essentially sentence-by-sentence, trying not to change meaning, but I think it could probably be written much more concisely. If I've understood right, you're simply saing "Sugar used to be expensive, so desserts were expensive, and eaten only by the rich or on special occasions, so we eat them at the end of meals so we're already full and won't eat as much." I'm not really sure what you're trying to say about India, though. – Cascabel Apr 24 '13 at 19:00

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