By GENE H. McINTYRE
Appropriately, summer begins with an “S” as do words we associate with it, such as staycation, saddle sore, shorts, sunglasses, shells, sand and sandals. Of course, this list may be expanded by you. Also, there’s soda, which is also associated with summer stuff.
Sodas contain sugar and lots of it, contributing to the average American’s consumption of it at 130 pounds per year. Which reminds one of a historical fact regarding sugar use in the U.S., as rationing was imposed by our government during World War II, starting in 1942. Supplies of it were cut or burned off in Pacific cane fields, denying it to the enemy while the war effort itself required sugar to make many things from antiseptics to explosives.
Sugar for war was exampled in a Smithsonian magazine article where it was reported that firing a large five-gun salvo used up the amount of sugar harvested from a full acre of it. Meanwhile, on the home front, cook books urged all chefs to sweeten cakes and pastries with the syrup remaining from canning fruit.
Back in time, Douglas Owsley, an anthropologist with the Museum of Natural History, reports on the wife of a colonial Maryland’s governor who passed away 300 years ago and apparently was able to use a lot of sugar. You see, when her remains were exhumed it was found that, since she was a wealthy woman with lead coffin and fine burial wearing apparel, she had lost 20 teeth, with those remaining down to root stubs. The exhumed bodies of her contemporaries possessed most of their teeth because they couldn’t afford a sugar habit.
Fact is, Americans have always taken as much sugar as they could get their mouths on. When George Washington was president in the late 1700s, the average American annually consumed about six pounds of sugar. That number rose as sugar beet growing got underway while later the U.S., in 1876, signed a treaty with the then-sovereign kingdom of Hawaii for sugar cane. Incidentally, sodas increased a lot in popularity with or without homemade rum during Prohibition.
Nowadays, as we all know, sugar’s in abundance and used (along with plenty of salt) in almost all prepared foods Americans eat or drink. There’s probably no exaggeration in stating that an encyclopedia’s entire “S” volume could be given over to a discussion of sugar uses in modern-day U.S.A.
Suffice it to comment in educating terms here that Brazil and India grow the most sugar beets with the U.S. in fifth place, they being grown here and elsewhere as an underground root crop in eleven U.S. states, including California, Oregon and Washington. Sugar cane thrives in warm, moist, tropical climates found in the American states of Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana and parts of Texas.
In the mean time, never fear: Should we in the U.S. ever run out of drinkable water, sodas can be made with a carbonating agent and fruit juice. Addendum to life: it has always been true in all humankind civilizations that death and taxes were the only absolute certainties. Nowadays, at least in our country, with the advent of excessive sugar use, we can realistically add dentists and dentures to that list.
(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)