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Sweet Sweet Tradition

Posted on 25th Jun 2019 @ 1:55 PM

Culture is a term widely used across regions of the world and refers to shared products and meanings which act as the interaction framework in a given community (Shaules 2007). Shared goods and purposes may apply to food, its history, its method of preparation; it’s time of consumption, all of which forms an interactive framework. Culture also encompasses a group’s religious, political and educational beliefs which form an interactive framework of similar attitudes, values, beliefs, and behavior. Culture can be contaminated or influenced by the migration of other cultures-attitude, values, and behavior typically known today as globalization. Other concepts may contribute to culture contamination such as creolization and hybridization.

Tradition is any response which is transmitted or handed down from the past to the present (Shils 1981). In this case, the past means history, the situation today is not what it was a generation ago or even yesterday.  If the present is always seen as eventually becoming the past, the past likewise will not be static (Cunnison 1959).  In my blog, sugar will be used to indicate to you how cultures can be contaminated by other cultures; every tradition is derived from history and history is never static.

 

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Sugar Cane (Saccharum Officinarum,) in the past was referred to as a “kind of honey” which grew in canes or reeds was introduced to the Western regions of the World as early as 325 BC discovered in the East Indies (William Reed 1866). The introduction of this product quickly rose and infiltrated other international markets, created new professions and changed the eating habits of the existing human species.,  The culture of the Western World has been defined by the introduction of sugar cane resulting in the enslavement of millions of people.  The year of 325 BC was not privy to the term globalization; however, the action was prevailing as few new products were introduced in Europe due to its rise in demand such as chocolate, coffee, and tea.  The term culture contamination can be clarified through the migration and use of sugar cane in other regions of the world after its introduction in the Western World.

Sugar has pronounced its effect on many cultures as its migration, use, availability and functions led to the introduction of lemonade in Paris in 1630. Food manufacturers relied heavily on the use of sugar worldwide as a preservative as well as a method of bringing out flavors and made successful new products such as jams, marmalades, sauces, soft drinks and ice cream infiltrating, influencing and contaminating cultures to become a revised culture (Galloway 2005).  Cultures have also been exposed to contamination through other methods such as hybridization and creolization, which are similar concepts both unique to the Caribbean and the

Western World. Hybridization is the process of cultural and ethnic mixing to produce a new entity with elements of each parent influence (Mohammed 2007). Hybridization has been the result of actions such as the Transatlantic and Triangular Trade introducing new methods of gathering crops, cultivating and agriculture. The migration of a culture and a product from India, the sugar cane has a significant impact on the definition of the Caribbean culture today both as medicine and an additive to food and drink. Creolisation similarly plays a principal role in the contamination of culture as it also meets and mixes cultures to produce something new out of the fusion. The heritage of the Caribbean is defined by the Indian, European and Asian influences, all of which played a significant role in the introduction of sugar to the Caribbean.


Every tradition of a culture or every interactive action with shared values and attitudes has been preserved and nurtured by the past, hence the reference term “child” by Flamdrin & Montanari 2009. Traditions with cultural meanings have been conserved even after migration as generations held and passed on their knowledge as a means of securing a cultural identity.  As early as 1513, sugar cane had commenced creating traditions as the King of Portugal made it a tradition to use sugar as a gift to other princes due to its expensive nature. Confectioners started to make life sugar models of the Pope and the twelve cardinals that were sent to Rome as a token of high esteem. These traditions were preserved and infiltrated other cultures by becoming an added ingredient to kitchens and traditional cooking books. 

During the 16th century, there emerged the icing of the cake which was a way of displaying wealth insisting on white sugar which is a tradition still used today. The first coffee house was created in 1652 in London and made itself a successful tradition as sugar was available and affordable and used to make the coffee more palatable. The drinking of tea in England is known worldwide as a culture unique to English history and was created by the introduction of sugar. The masses began to drink tea which replaced the usual consumption of gin and beer during the 1800’s. (Galloway 2005)


History will never seem static as each minute passes it now becomes part of the Worlds history, and this can be applied to sugar and sugar cane.  Today sugar is used to prepare foods as a sweetener and preservative as was done in the past; however, its predominant use presently includes but is not limited to sugar sculptures, the manufacture of rum and other alcoholic beverages.  By-products of sugar cane are used to make paper, building materials, stocks and feeds, and ethanol fuel production.  (Tsúnyöta Köhe’t, 1996-2014.) History will record the life of sugar and sugar cane including its political, social and cultural journey to create new traditions and cultures. Surly, sugar cane has its impact on the history, social and economic structure of the Western World.


Despite the brutality described in varying literature and media, the Caribbean has developed into a vibrant culture infiltrated and influenced by a Creole culture, created by creolization. Many traditions such as the Crop over Festival and Carnivals have been set up from the slave trade history. The diverse food cultures of spices, jerk, open fire cooking and the incorporation of rum have been created and preserved through a wide range of cultural backgrounds such as the Europeans, Africans, South Asians, Indians, and Amerindians.

Randie Anderson Executive Chef, MSc Gastronomic Tourism.
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