By Heart is a series in which authors share and discuss their all-time favorite passages in literature.
In Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss delves into the processed food industry's mastery of the art and science of craving. It may not shock you that humans are wired for fierce, profound attachment to the title's three substances—what Moss calls the "holy trinity" of junk food. But it will surprise you to learn just how deliberately and carefully food companies manipulate our lust for salt, sugar, and fat.
When I asked Moss to contribute to "By Heart," we agreed he shouldn't follow the standard formula for this series. He wanted close-read a potato chip, not a paragraph. So we discussed how these addicting little treats work magic on our tongues—making the classic Lay's slogan "Betcha can't eat just one" even truer than its originators intended.
Michael Moss is a reporter for The New York Times. In 2010, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for his articles on deadly hamburger meat, contaminated peanut butter, and other issues relating to food safety and consumer health. He spoke to me by phone from his home in Brooklyn.
Michael Moss: You would think the Madison Avenue firm Young & Rubicam would tout that they created one of the most famous and successful slogans of all time. But a culture of client privilege permeates the advertising industry—the food processing industry, too—and firms are often loath to tout their own work for fear of offending clients. So there's no public record of who invented one of junk food's greatest taglines. I had to do quite a bit to track it down.