Refined sugar. The delight of a devil and all his demons.
Not many folk actively dislike sweetness. There are degrees of course. But us humans are hard wired for it. In the wild sugar is rare, fruits and honey, some vegetables. Sugar was of course not the devil we know it today. Sugar is energy, fast and instant. Sugar is a substance worth taking, sometimes death defying risks for, taking long journeys for. And because it is so difficult to find in the wild there is no harm to it!
It is rare, ‘tis delicious and so it became a trap as sticky as any honeycomb.
Humans are so clever, too clever for their own good. Starting with working out how to raid wild bees nests - wild bees do not give up their honey without a desperate and vicious fight. They then worked out how to make fruit sweeter with the aid of this honey and cooking. Then they worked out how to combine it with another rare but vital substance - fat - to make something so delicious it could tempt a devil off a tree.
Wild animals do not posses much fat, it was agriculture which produced the fat and the tamed bees for honey, the ovens for the cooking together. We taught ourselves how to refine the stuff. How to easily transport it around the world. We discovered how useful it was for preserving foods, for making alcohol for. . . well you get the picture. We pour it in bucketfuls into factories specifically designed to offer us sugar, in every increasing refinement and into every conceivable likeness. Adding it to traditional dishes which never in their history has demanded such. We are hooked on the devils sweetness.
Its history, since we began to control it, has been a long miserable and sordid tale of greed and riches. Those who took control of sugar had a power which could, and was, misused for centuries. Despite being produced by slaves, think of the low overheads! it was sold at exorbitant prices. Fortunes and stately homes , whole cities and nations built on the back of sugar.
Kept under lock and key as was the cocoa and tea which also belonged to the rich and powerful. But sweetness was craved more than tea and cocoa, our bodies know that sugar is an essential source of nourishment (in small doses) our minds never caught up with portion control:) It came down to us masses, we demanded it, our demand grows exponentially. No end in sight for our addiction.
One of the great catastrophe of history. How many poor souls have been whipped to the sugar canes, how many still. For slavery is not the dead and buried affair folk would like to think when they eat the chocolate. If the thought even crosses minds where chocolate is concerned. New moral dilemmas arise now, support fair trade sugar and chocolate to encourage the masters of this crop or deny them even that because they still use the unfair trade to produce other bars.
Refined sugar today is definitely a non-food.
When I was a child, sugar was rationed.
Sweets were rationed.
Sweets were were a treat - worth the waiting for:)
When I was very young, I would sometimes creep into the pantry and 'steal' a teaspoonful of the stuff. I got caught and told off soundly. Because I ‘stole’ or because it was a rare treat?
Friends sometimes accuse me of having a sweet tooth. I dispute the allegation. It is based on the fact that I like small dribs throughout the day. A teaspoon here, a teaspoon there. On the occasions I have cut out sugar completely, I find I am busy making carrot or garden pea soup. As you see, a drib throughout the day.
What I don’t like is the cloying sweetness of gateaux, the stickiness of puddings. A lot of sweetness makes me feel distinctly ill. I would say others have the sweet tooth, those who never put a teaspoon of sugar in their tea or coffee but will happily guzzle down a treble chocolate desert with chocolate sauce or indulge in a sticky toffee pudding.
When I was young and cutting edge travelling the mountains of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush, camping out without aid of tent, and relying on a sleeping bag for warmth. When I was tired from sleepless nights and rough terrain, of alarms and struggles with language, I rested awhile in Quetta - a former British Hill Station. A place for the Masters to retire too in the heat of the sun on the plains below. We arrived there at the start of winter!
It was cold.
We were exhausted.
We were hungry.
I found a tin of condensed milk in a dusty store in the town. It was well before 'sell by dates', but even I could see it was a very old tin. I didn’t care I craved something sweet. I had never liked the stuff back home but my mind knew this tin for what it was - instant energy - it was something of a need. It was caramelised within the tin. It was old beyond belief, it was wonderful and I consumed the whole tin. Letting the wonderful taste slide down my throat.
I forgot the cold.
Forgot the hunger.
I slept the entire night even on the hard stony ground.
Sometimes refined sugar is good:)
Giving my pint of blood in Iran, instead of a biscuit and cuppa afterwards we were given small brown sweets made from unrefined sugar - oh so tasty.
In the Hindu Kush we were given lumps of this brown sugar to suck as we drank the chai. Oh so tasty.
I have bought sugar cane by the kilo to chew on as we travelled dusty byways.
I like it!
but I do.
Nowadays I have a choice between UK sugar made from sugar beets and no slavery and the other stuff, eases a conscious a little.
I don’t have sugar in every beverage I drink, and sometimes go weeks without adding it, usually when my diet is full of fruits or sweet vegetables. I do try and keep away from the refined stuff and get my daily fix from the foods which deliver more than sugar in their packet.
But I can and do get tempted. It is easier now to resist the refined because this latest taste dysfunction has targeted refined and artificial sugar big time. It began with chocolate tasting nastier and nastier, then it was sweets, then biscuits. I still enjoy a few of my homemade cakes and biscuits. Apple cake stuffed so full of apples it barely needs sugar, fruit cake of course relies on the sweetness of dried fruit and ginger cake it is the spice one is wanting.
I fear they too will go eventually.
Then that devil can tempt as much as it likes I will not heed.
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