The fourth booth in the great fair is the one that
many children will like best, for here is sugar of every kind that you ever
heard of—cane sugar, beet sugar, maple sugar, and even sugar of milk. There
are also substitutes for sugar, such as honey, molasses, glucose, and corn
sirup. Besides these, there are preserves and jam, and there are more kinds
of candy than you ever imagined even in a dream of fairyland.
Sugar is so agreeable that we are often inclined to eat it in too
large quantities or at the wrong time. Children are often told that if they
eat sugar before dinner, it will "spoil their appetite." This is because
eating it makes you feel as if you did not care for anything more, even
though all the time your body may be in need of other food.
We eat sugar quite as much because we like it as because we need
it. We can get fro fruit and vegetables, especially dried fruit, all that we
really require, though our food would not be so appetizing without some
In one way, however, sugar is of great value as a food. You know
that soldiers sometimes carry an "emergency ration," which is not to be used
unless their regular supply of food has given out. Sugar is a sort of
emergency ration. If you are climbing a mountain, a lump of sugar or a few
raisins now and then will help you on. Soldiers find that they can stand a
hard march better if they have sugar. Of course some other food, like bread,
for instance, or a baked potato, would answer the purpose; but they have not
time to stop and cook, and if they had, these foods would take a longer time
to digest and yield energy. Then too, soldiers like it, and it makes up to
them in part for the sweet dessert most of them have had at home. These are
two reasons why we have had to be as saving of sugar as possible, in order
to send it to them.
When people speak of sugar, they usually have in mind a bowl of
white granulated sugar, but this is by no means fair to the other varieties.
Nearly all our sugar comes from plants. Until about a century ago, all
granulated sugar was made from the sugar cane. This is really a kind of
grass, but a grass that might grow in a country of giants, for it is ten or
fifteen feet in height, sometime even twenty. The juice or sap is so sweet
that children—and grown-up people, too—like to suck bits of the stalk.
These stalks are crushed in a mill and passed between rollers to
squeeze out the juice. Solids are filtered out, then the liquid is boiled
several times, the sugar crystallizing after each boiling and being removed.
This gives what is called raw sugar. It is brown, and to make it white it
has to be washed and filtered through a special kind of charcoal made from
bone, and then crystallized again. This is what we call refining it. The
refined sugar is of a slightly creamy color, and sometimes it is blued to
make it look white. If you examine a few grains through a magnifying glass,
you will find that each grain is a little crystal. Molasses is what is
called a "by-product" of sugar-making. It contains a large amount of sugar,
but to get all this sugar into a crystallized form is a thing that the
ordinary methods of sugar-making have not yet succeeded in doing. Molasses
is rich in lime, and so is better than sugar for growing children.
Sugar is also made from large, sweet beets. These are cut into
slices, and the juice is extracted and purified. Then the liquid is
evaporated, and a sugar results which is exactly the same thing as cane
sugar. It will make jelly and do everything else that cane sugar will do.
Before the war, the French raised large quantities of sugar beets; but
France's beet-bearing lands have been partly in the hands of the enemy or
within the fighting zone and now, even though they have been recovered, they
will be in no condition for agriculture for a long time to come.
The same kind of sugar comes from one kind of maple tree that grows
in many parts of this country. About the maple there is a charming story
that, when one day the Lord of the Green Things Growing came to visit his
garden, the plants were all eager to make him some gift. The rose and the
lily gave their blossoms; the apple and the orange and the nut trees gave
their fruit and were happy. The maple alone was troubled, for she had
neither blossoms not fruit to give him. At last she said sadly, "I have no
beautiful blossoms and no delicious fruit, but I will gladly give you my own
And that is the way, according to the legend, that the first maple sugar
came into being.
Another kind of sugar is found in honey. I ancient times, before
people had learned how to get sugar from plants, honey was very much prized
because it was their only sweetening, and a land "flowing with milk and
honey" was their way of describing a rich and fertile country. To offer a
guest milk and honey was a special courtesy. People of those times were very
particular where their honey came from, and the ancient poets had much to
say about the wonderfully good quality of that from a mountain in Greece
named Hymettus. Honey still comes from that mountain, and it is exceedingly
good; but persons who have tried it and also the honey made in America from
the blossoms of basswood, or of white clover, say that the American honey is
fully as delicate.
A kind of sugar called glucose is found in many fruits and
vegetables, and also in honey. There is so much in grapes that it is
sometimes called grape sugar. One form of this kind of sugar is made from
the starch of corn, and is called corn sugar when it is sold in the solid
form, or corn sirup when it is liquid. It is of common use in confectionery,
jelly, preserves, and in canning. It is used, too, as a table sirup. In many
countries the same sugar is made from potato starch.
In parts of our country a sirup is made from sorghum, a plant that
has been known in China for many centuries. Many farmers in a community will
grow a field of sorghum cane, which is not unlike the sugar cane in
appearance. One farmer will set up the mill and grind this cane for his
neighbors. The cane comes to the mill heaped high in large wagons and the
product is returned to the farmers in the large cans or vats provided for
the purpose. The mill is a simple affair erected out of doors and turned by
a horse or mule walking round and round, but it grinds the cane under heavy
pressure and forces out the greenish, strong-tasting juice. The sirup is
boiled in a series of large pans supported on bricks over a fire, and so
arranged that the sirup as it boils runs over from the higher into the lower
pans, leaving behind the impurities and becoming clearer. When it flows from
the last pan it is clear and thick and ready for table use. Ribbon cane
sirup is prepared in many places in the south in the same way.
Not only sugar cane and beets and maple trees contain sugar in
their sap; but many other plants and some of the vegetables that we use
commonly. The chief difficulty is that there is not enough i them to make it
worth while to extract it for the market. Fruits, especially sun-dried
fruits, contain a good deal of sugar. Raisins, for instance, which will
often take the place of sugar, are exceedingly sweet, and they are merely
grapes dried in the sun, and contain only the sugar that was in them in the
first place. Cakes and desserts that have raisins in them do not need so
much sugar. Dates and figs are also good to use in place of sugar.
While most of our sugar comes from plants, some is found in the
animal kingdom. If skim milk or whey is boiled till most of the water is
evaporated, and is allowed to stand quietly for a while, tiny crystals form
and drop to the bottom of the dish. This is milk sugar. It is an expensive
kind of sugar. To make one quart of it takes at least twenty quarts of milk.
It is not so sweet as ordinary sugar. Sugar of milk is used in dry
medicines. If you are ever given small pills that taste rather sweet, you
may be almost sure that they are made of sugar of milk mixed with
whatever medicine is needed. It is used too for babies' food.
It is worth
That sugar should be eaten in small quantities and never
That sugar is of value chiefly as an "emergency ration" and to make
other foods palatable.
That sweet fruits will give us much of the sugar we need, and other
important things as well.
That many fruits and some vegetables contain sugar, but only a few
of them in sufficiently large quantities to pay for extracting.