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Sugar: A Global History (Edible) Hardcover – May 15, 2015
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Chapters 1 through 3 are a history from domestication through about 1900. The first written accounts are from northern India 2,500 years ago, with the region of domestication not agreed on. The sequence includes the migration of production to the Middle East, Egypt, Cyprus and the Mediterranean islands, the Atlantic islands and so on to the Caribbean and Brazil. The history is interesting but fast-paced. The usual problem is the lack of labor and so the crop has long had an association with compelled labor and slavery. Anyone reading this the first time will note the huge demographic effect of sugar, bringing African slaves to the New World, and accounting for the intricate ethnic mix of places like Hawai'i.
I found Chapter 4, a history of how sugar was used, to be the most interesting. Sugar was not only a sweetener but a medicine. There are mentions of sugar in English accounts as early as the 1200s. The most popular drink in the Middle Ages, says Smith, was Hippocras, a spiced wine than was originally made with honey but sugar replaced it. Sugar history merged with that of coffee, tea and chocolate, and is nicely covered in this chapter.
Chapter 5 is on candy and sweets, and includes, briefly, the origins of some of today's major manufacturers and brands. Chapter 6 focuses on the US and is an excellent discussion of the development of sugar-loaded processed foods and soft drinks. There's some interesting discussion of doughnuts. Chapter 7, "Sugar Blues," goes into the dental and dietary problems associated with sugar consumption, not just refined cane sugar but corn sugar and artificial sweeteners. Chapter 7 is the second best chapter.
The recipe section includes recipes from old texts, and is itself interesting.