But that candied shiitake mushroom, Norwegian sour cream pudding and bubble tea are more than treats for anthropologist Julia Harrison.
She studies the impact of trade routes, trends, migration patterns and customs linked to sweets.
She'll tell all about it on Saturday at the Mukilteo Library, 4675 Harbour Pointe Blvd.
Samples will be served at the free program, "A World of Sweets in Washington State," which covers the diversity of confections, and the ways communities celebrate, adapt and interact.
"As an anthropologist you try to find some way to open a window in other peoples lives," Harrison said. "I use sweet food as a way of navigation and motivating to get out and explore."
Her interactive map of sweet shops in the Seattle region has audio and illustrations. Click through it to scout out new places and hear shop owners tell their sweet stories at on the SweetMap at www.juliaharrison.net/sweets.html.
"Each business represented on the map took eight or nine hours of my time. It is very much a labor of love," Harrison said.
"Try something you might not have tried before and understand it in a new way," she said.
There's still lots of room to savor the old.
"Sweets tap into our emotions and memories," Harrison said.
She looks back at the treats she took for granted as a kid growing up in Kentucky and Tennessee.
"Sweets are a snapshot of a point in time that don't necessarily last," she said.
Like the lemon icebox cake from the Kentucky cafeteria that no longer exists.
"I can still taste it," she said.
Seating is limited. To register for the talk, visit www.sno-isle.org or call 425-493-8202. For more information about Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau, visit www.humanities.org.
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; email@example.com
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