Comment: Roman sugar?   Leave a comment

For some reason that may have to do with a worn-out rubber gasket on my moka, my coffee was particularly bitter this morning. The obvious decision was to add a little sugar, which I carefully poured directly from the box. Usually we fill a small sugar dispenser but it wasn’t handy; this meant that for the first time I noticed the words on the sugar box: “Zucchero Terre Antiche” [Sugar Ancient Lands]. This was the name of the sugar and the producer, I discovered. The box had a simple design, with a map of central Italy on it with the names of the cities on it. In Latin.

Florentia, Saena, Perusia, Assisium, Arretium. It seemed like an attempt at connecting this sugar in some vague culinary way to Roman times, a gimmick that is par for the course here in Italy for just about any tradition. The box’s “subtitle,” Dolce storia quotidiana, (Sweet daily history) suggested the same. Sidney Mintz, the authority on the subject of sugar, says that while likely known to Romans of the first century c.e., “[t]he Arab expansion westward marked a turning point in the European experience of sugar.” A peek at the company’s website made their intentions a little less murky: they gave a decent thumbnail sketch of the history of making sugar from sugar beets, then linked to this to their production facilities, all in the “ancient lands” of central Italy. I couldn’t decide what importance to give to this, but they made explicit, both on their box and on their site, that they did not use GMO sugar beets, but rather varieties developed in Central Italy.

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Posted January 23, 2011 by zachmon in Uncategorized

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