Essay about Sugar: Briefly Through The Ages

Essay about Sugar: Briefly Through The Ages

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Sugar traces its history a long way back for England, the northwestern European island of people who followed their sweet tooth for centuries until sugar was established as a staple in domestic pantries. Medieval Europe passed by without much sugar usage but the most drastic changes occurred over the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, where the successful production of sugar on the home front reduced Britain’s need for foreign imports as well as created a new sort of luxury consumption that separated the social classes in a way not dissimilar to the medieval hierarchical structure of centuries past. From sugar’s origins as an import from the Levant and from the western Mediterranean, to its colonial production in British Caribbean plantations and to cultivation on the home front, the prominence of sugar grew as more of the nation consumed it and each consumer used it more heavily.
During the Middle Ages, England was entertained by her food- those theatrical and ostentatious displays of art on the banquet tables and royal dining halls of the elite nobility. Dishes were both sculptures and games, spectacles designed to both excite yet also emphasize societal rank at the banquet hall. In a society governed by aesthetics and outward appearances, what one consumed was a large indicator of one’s rank. The more intricate a dish at a table, the more sophisticated one was. Props such as ornateness of tableware, seating placement, and theatricality of dishes were important determinants of one’s hierarchical status. Food characteristics might include colourful arrays of sauces as coatings to meat , abundant use of expensive spices, and playful dishes concocted out of trickery and mirth. Through the fun nature of such course...


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...cross the continent.” Such unforeseen successes would also begin the enduring traditions of the English tea and coffee shop cultures.
In studying sugar’s history, we evidence the sweetener’s shift from an elite luxury to a common staple in British consumption habits. Sugar shifted from being a specialty product of the Levant and Mediterranean regions to a colonial plantation crop harvested by slave labour. Consumption rose steadily, which escalated its place in the British diet while growing more popular with increased culinary innovation. The rise of sugar transformed the global sugar market, but also affected the economy, politics, and culture of the nation. In describing the English people, Flandrin fleetingly penned that they “generally possessed a sweet tooth,” capturing, perhaps, an innocent quality that inadvertently birthed a new set of national norms.

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