I'd like to begin with a quotation from Mintz's introduction, which justifies his own involvement with the subject of sugar:
I gave no serious thought to why the demand for sugar should have risen so rapidly and so continuously for so many centuries, or even to why sweetness might be a desirable taste. I suppose I thought answers to such questions were self-evident - who doesn't like sweetness? Now it seems to me that my lack of curiousity was obtuse; I was taking demand for granted. And not just 'demand' in the abstract; world sugar production shows the most remarkable upward production curve of any major food on the world market over the course of several centuries,and it is continuing upward still. Only when I began to learn more Caribbean history and more about particular relationship between planters in the colonies and bankers, entrepeneurs, and different groups of consumers in the metropolises, did I begin to puzzle over what 'demand' really was, to what extent it could be regarded as 'natural,' what is meant by words like 'taste' and 'preference' and even 'good.' (S.P.)
I once read a book that sought to define the word "good." After several chapters, the subtle shades of grey area became two words, and then one awkward phrase: "contextually adequate." If I could perform an excision, if I could scoop that phrase out of the appropriate brain cortex with a mellon baller, I would. I would be willing to sacrifice "contextually" and "adequate," and perhaps even other parts of speech who have somehow embroiled themselves in the matter, in order to be rid of such a resolution. That said, there are other words to work with which have not been poisoned by "contextually" or "adequate." For starters: demand, sweetness, sugar, answers, questions, self-evident, curiosity, abstract, upward production curve, relationship, puzzle, taste, and preference, and - even - 'good.'