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Time, Sugar, and Sweetness by Sidney W. Mintz

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1 Time, Sugar, and Sweetness by Sidney W. Mintz

2 Introduction Food and eating as subjects of serious inquiry have engaged anthropology from its very beginnings. Food and eating were studies for the most part focused on more unusual aspects (food prohibitions and taboos, cannibalism) rather than everyday and essential features of the life of all humankind. Food and eating are now becoming actively of interest to antropologists: there is an upsurge of interest on the study of patterned relationships between food and human groups.

3 Time, Sugar, and Sweetness
Until the 17th century people from Northern Europe secured sweetness in food mostly from honey and from fruit. Sugar can be extracted from many sources, such as the sugar palm, the sugar beet, and all fruits. The white granulated sugar familiar today is made from sugar cane and sugar beets. The sugar-beet process was developed late, but sugar-cane processing is ancient.

4 Time, Sugar, and Sweetness
Sugar cane was grown: in South Asia at least as early as the 4th century B.C. on the southern side of the Mediterranean Sea by the 8th century A.D. ■ During those centuries it remained costly, prized, and less a food than a medicine. ■ Those who dealt in imported spices dealt in sugar as well.

5 Sugar vs Honey Before Brittains had sugar, they had honey.
Honey was a common ingredient in prescriptions and had also been used as a preservative. Then sugar turned out to be much better and, eventually, cheaper. Sugar is by far a superior preservative medium. Honey also provided the basis of some alcohol drinks and sugar became an important alternative to these drinks. → Sugar soon bested honey.

6 Time, Sugar, and Sweetness
By the 13th century English monarchs had grown fond of sugar, most of it probably from the Eastern Mediterranean. Sugar had entered into the tastes and recipe books of the rich.

7 Variant uses of sugar Like spices, sugar was a condiment, a preservative, and a medicine. Like them it was sold by Grocers. Sugar was employed, as were spices, with cooked meats, sometimes combined with fruits. Sugar was a medicine, but it also disguised the bitter taste of other medicines by sweetening. It was a sweetener, which, by 1700, was sweetening tea, chocolate, and coffee, all of them bitter and all of them stimulants. It was a food, rich in calories. It was a preservative, which, when eaten with what it preserved , both made it sweeter and increased its caloric content.

8 Time, Sugar, and Sweetness
During and after the Age of Discovery, Europe experienced a deluge of new substances, including foods. The sugar cane that originated in the Old World and was already known to Europeans was diffused to the New World. It became an important crop after the 17th century. Sugar cannot easily be discussed without references to other foods: the character of its uses, its association with other items, the ways it was perceived, changed greatly over time.

9 Time, Sugar, and Sweetness
Sugar is linked to slavery and to ecomical growth: the sugar cane plantation profits were transfered to European banks for reinvestment. By the end of the 17th century sugar had become an English food, even if still costly and a delicacy.

10 Time, Sugar, and Sweetness
The general spread of these substances through the Western world since the 17th century has been one of the truly important economic and cultural phenomena of the modern age. These were the first edible luxuries to become common in proletarian diets as they filtered down from elite tables to the working classes that provided the labor for industrial capitalism

11 Time, Sugar, and Sweetness
During 18-19th C. Industrialization, sugar became a cheap source of quick energy, forming part of a complex of « proletarian hunger-killers » Factory labor required changes in lifestyle for the new labor class Factory-made jams & breads (quick, high-energy foods) replaced home-prepared food

12 Time, Sugar, and Sweetness
« The availability of sugar was a function of economic & political forces remote from consumers & not understood as forces » Having shifted from the tables of the elite to the proletariat, sugar offered calories, but no nutritional value Changing consumption must be seen as a result of capitalism & class domination

13 Conclusion Commodity Fethisism:
Society is divided by class interests with unequal distribution of power The conceptual separation of production & consumption and of colony from metropolis is unjustified—these linkages are present in time & space

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