Sugar Food is one of the most important aspects of any culture. Traditional cuisine is passed down from one generation to the other and expression of cultural identity is obtained. Cooking traditional food is a way of preserving one’s culture, even when they migrate to a different country or place with a different food culture. Making one’s cultural food is a symbol of pride for their ethnicity, as well as a means of coping when they feel homesick. Even though restaurants of different cultural cuisine are opened all over the world, the food does not exactly remain the same because some ingredients that might be needed to make the original traditional dishes might not readily be available, and the flavor and taste might be different from the one prepared in their home countries. The only thing that stays the same is the extent to which the unique cuisine of a culture can reflect its unique lifestyle, history, beliefs and values.
This food culture paper addresses the different uses of sugar in the cuisines of the three different cultures, namely; the Northern France, the Southern India and the Carribeans. It also addresses how sugar (from different extractions, taking different texture, taste and appearance) was introduced in these cultures as well as the different ways that the three cultures incorporate it in their various recipes.
The Southern Indian Cuisine
The Southern Indian cuisine have changed so much as the years go by. It has been exposed to different enriching influences from Southeast Asia and Africa. Some of the food that were derived from Southeast Asia that have influenced the Southern Indian cuisine are coconut, banana, areca nut, sago palm, betel leaf, and also varieties of yam from Africa. All these tastes are appreciated and enjoyed by the Verdic practice, and are also observed and eaten in the order that differs from region to region. From a broad spectrum, the Southern part of India have a common way in which they arrange their food before consumption. They arrange their food items on a banana leaf that they will use to eat, which are similar in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh (different regions in Southern India).
Karnataka, a part in South India consume an exceptionally large amount of wheat. Their method of preparation for wheat is either by baking, roasting or frying. Roasting is usually done in different ways. For example, Mucchal roti is baked with live coal and between plates, while kivichu roti on a flat plate and a little clarified butter. Several roasted tava rotis are usually mounted one on top of the other, using a stick that is flavored with sugar, clarified butter, edible camphor and thale flower. Mandige is another delicate baked product of the Karnataka. When mandige is baked on a tile with heat, it is usually called white mandige, but when it is oven heated (maintaining a soft texture) it is then called ushnavarta mandige. A mixture of sugar and ghee yields khanda mandige (this is a multilayer filling of cooked chana, coconut, dates, shreds and raisins).
Today, mandige of Balgaum have become a very large and fine paratha with a rich stuffine of ground sugar that is fine in texture. The sugar stuffing contains cardamom powder, baked on a clay pot that is turned upwards, and folded in a moderate rectangular shape. Also, kanika (which is true baking with white dough seal) can be used in the making of bhojanadhika roti. For this food, mandige is broken up into smaller pieces and then mixed with cream, milk, coconut milk, mango juice and sugar. After these steps, the mixture is then pressed into a small ball. The small balls are covered with wheat dough and placed to bake under a hot tile seal, where the vessel is turned frequently. After these processes have been completed, the upper crust is then sliced off, and sugar and ghee are poured on the roti before they are consumed.
The Northern French Cuisines
The northern and southern parts of France are separated by ‘The Loire River’, which have long been serving as their divider. The Lorie River runs in the Atlantic coast from the Nants to the southern part of Burgundy. The Nants swerves towards the south through the French mentality at Pouilly, and the division line continues eastward to Geneva. Farmers that live in the northern part of France are mostly very wealthy. The finest beet that has been produced in France comes mainly from this part of France. Sugar beets are plants with roots that have high concentrations of glucose and fructose. They are usually grown for commercial production of sugar.
The Northern part of France is famously known as the region with the largest sugar production, which has been since the beginning of the nineteenth century when the British navy imposed the Continental blockade. The Continental blockade deprived France from importing sugar from colonies overseas. This prompted Napoleon to reward anyone that could discover and apply new techniques of producing and extracting sugar from beets on a commercial scale. This precious commodity made the Northern part of France the center of sugar production from beets. Also, this is the only region where people use brown sugar in savory dishes, not excluding the local blood sausage, beef stewed in beer, sweet-sour cabbage, as well as dark or light brown sugar fillings. The french brown sugars vary from one another and they do not always fit into substitutions. For recipes that require brown sugar, they can use moist cassonade, vergeoise or refined amber colored sugar that is not granulated. Crystalized sugar is granulated and are easy to pour, compared to moist brown sugar that clumps easily when pinched.
The Caribbean Cuisine
The Caribbean is believed to include the Greater and Lesser Antilles in the Carribean Sea, the mainland french Guiana, Guyana and Suriname. The Caribbean used to be colonized by the people from spain, but their settlement in the Caribbeans was limited by the larger populations from Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. However, the Cribbeans is considered a region that is distinct from Latin America. The Spanish Carribean Island have similarities with their non-spanish neighbours, in terms of their language and culture. Their experience as slaves have shaped the population in a way that most of the Antilles practice plantation agriculture. It is food such as sugar (most especially), cocoa, citrus, spices, coffee and banana that unifies the Caribbean as a historical region.
The climate in the Caribbeans is very accommodating for the cultivation of sugarcane, especially on the Islands of the Antilles and coastal South America, which have leveled and dried grounds. The production of sugar cane was developed initially by the Spanish in Cuba, but they were not interested in the mass production of sugar. In the sixteenth century, sugar cane production became exploited by the British colonizers. The most significant thing about sugar was how it transformed rapidly from a luxury item to a sweet and tempting product that was on high demand.
Sugar cake is a confectional food of the Caribbeans that is made with coconut, flavorings and sugar. It is first moulded and then baked. Sugar cake is a popular sweet snack that is common among the children. To make the sugar cake, the required ingredients are granulated sugar, water, cream of tartar, almond extract, food color (optional) and shredded unsweetened coconut with the brown husk removed. The shredded coconut is what gives the sugar cake its fine appearance and desired shape. The sugar is first boiled in water to obtain a light syrup. When bubbles about the size of small pears begin to appear, grated coconut and the cream of tartar is then added. It is removed from the heat when noticed that the coconut mixture can easily leave the sides of the pan without any running syrup, then beaten with a spoon for about five minutes. After these have been done, the almond and food coloring can then be added. Finally, mix together and put in a Pyrex dish for it to cool. After cooling, the sugar cake can then be cut into squares.
The tradition of food varies throughout the world. It also varies among people with similar cultural backgrounds, eating patterns and same food habits are not identical in anyway. However, many parts of the world associate food with expression of friendship and hospitality. This is the reason why it is important to develop sensitivity to food customs and rules, and also strengthening cross-cultural relationships.