While adding sugar to my cappuccino recently, I wondered at the jewel-like sparkle off of sugar cubes that were placed at my table. May be it was the holiday mood or the perfect ambience of the cafe I was in, but I looked at sugar cubes with new curiosity. Some online search into sugar cubes revealed the following fascinating information:
- A perfect sugar cube weighs exactly 4 gm or 1 teaspoon of sugar and has a dimension of roughly 1 cm (other numbers popped up were 3 gm sugar/sugar cube and 5/8th of on inch for dimension).
- The predominant form of sugar in early 1800s, before granulated or cube form of sugar became more popular, was a ‘sugar loaf’, which had to be cut to be used in cooking, There were special tools to cut those loaves. See here for interesting information on sugar nippers.
- Sugar cubes were first manufactured in 1843 by a Moravian sugar businessman Jakub Rad. Story has that he pretty much got yelled at by his wife to do something, when she got injured while cutting the aforementioned sugar loaf. He actually did something about it and won a patent for a press to make sugar cubes.
- A method for making sugar cubes at home can be found here
- “The Sugarcubes” also happens to be the name of an Icelandic alternative rock band which had Bjork, its most well-known member, as one of the lead singers! hmmm, not so sweet!
- There is a website called ‘sugarstacks’ which posts pictures of stacked cubes of sugar in front of many processed foods in an attempt to scare the crap out of you, when you realise the amount of sugar that goes into these foods.
- In 1960’s LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) was sold laced on sugar cubes. Apparently they were tinted in light blue, to differentiate the spiked sugar cubes from their innocuous counterparts.
- A nice data collection on some possible links between sugar consumption, obesity and diabetes. It may be UK/USA centric, but lessons can be learnt by us all. More interesting take on political angle to sugar and its profit-makers here. An article by an American dentist Cristin Kearns Couzens and science writer Gary Taubes equating sugar politics to that of infamous tobacco lobbyists was a good read as well:
..[recently released papers] show how Big Sugar used Big Tobacco-style tactics to ensure that government agencies would dismiss troubling health claims against their products. Compared to the tobacco companies, which knew for a fact that their wares were deadly and spent billions of dollars trying to cover up that reality, the sugar industry had a relatively easy task. With the jury still out on sugar’s health effects, producers simply needed to make sure that the uncertainty lingered. But the goal was the same: to safeguard sales by creating a body of evidence companies could deploy to counter any unfavorable research.
- And finally, an interesting book title that I came across on sugar’s history: Sugar: A Bittersweet History by Elizabeth Abbott. A NY Times review of the same here and an excerpt from the review:
Abbott’s book, which discusses the effects of sugar on everything from the Haitian revolution to Hitler’s Germany, serves as a grim reminder that a consumer’s choices register on a gigantic scale, and are therefore as much political as personal.
Maybe next time just before adding that second or third sugar cube into our coffee/tea, we need to pause for a second as we are making a personal as well as a political choice in consuming sugar. It may not be spiked with anything as powerful as LSD, but sugar is surely a drug !