The amazing weirdness of sugar
2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the sugar giant Tate and Lyle when Abraham Lyle and Henry Tate and Sons merged their companies to create one of the best-known companies in the sugar industry. Here at UK Vending we thought that was a good excuse to seek out some of the weirder facts about the sweet stuff, such as did you know sugar can be used as rocket fuel?
SUGAR WAS ONCE CONSIDERED A SPICE, NOT A SWEETENER.
In the 12th century when sugar first appeared in England, it was grouped in the same category as spices like ginger, cinnamon and saffron, and used to season savoury dishes.
IT WAS USED AS A MEDICINE FOR CENTURIES.
In 9th century Iraq sugar was mixed with fruits and spices to make medicinal syrups and infusions. By the 18th century one doctor in England even suggested that a patient suffering from eye infections could benefit from having a cloud of sugar blown into their eyes!
IN EUROPE, IT STARTED AS A LUXURY …
Sugar has always had a reputation for being expensive, until relatively recently that is. King Henry III wanted to obtain a monarch’s supply in the 13th century but expressed doubts that if he collected all the sugar in England he couldn’t find the amount he wanted. How much did he want…just three pounds of sugar!
BUT BY THE 19TH CENTURY, HAD BECOME A STAPLE OF THE WORKING-CLASS DIET.
The cost of sugar steadily came down as supplies improved. By 1850 the working classes were using more of it than the wealthy as they put it in almost everything they made. Importantly, they had taken up the habit of stirring in some sugar into their tea!
SUGAR CANE WAS FIRST DOMESTICATED IN NEW GUINEA AROUND 8000 BCE.
It was later carried to the Philippines and India—in fact, the first written mention of sugar may be in The Mahabhashya of Patanjali, a study of Sanskrit written around 400-350 BCE.
EATING SUGAR CAN GIVE YOU WRINKLES.
Eating too much sugar is not good for you. You can gain weight but something else that happens is that sugar causes glycation, a process which breaks down the collagen in your skin and increases the chance of you developing wrinkles.
DOGS HAVE A SWEET TOOTH, BUT CATS DON’T.
Dogs like sweet stuff like sugar, but their feline friends don’t.
SUGAR CAN BE USED AS FUEL.
Sugar has explosive potential. Terrorists during the IRA campaign in Northern Ireland mixed it with other materials to produce deadly bombs. On a lighter and more productive note, sugar is the main component in what is known as ‘rocket candy’ that literally fuels model rockets skywards. The same process is being investigated by scientists as they try to find replacement fuels to power future road vehicles.
SUGAR HAS BEEN FEATURED IN SONGS AND POETRY FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS.
In 1436, Adam de Moleyn singled out sugar in a poem about English sea power called “The Libelle of English Polycye.” The phrase “sugar and spice and everything nice,” meanwhile, first appeared in a 19th century poem called “What Are Little Boys Made Of?” And, over the last century, the word “sugar” has been featured in song titles by The Archies (“Sugar Sugar”), Talking Heads (“Sugar On My Tongue”), Nina Simone (“I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl”), The Rolling Stones (“Brown Sugar”), Bob Dylan (“Sugar Baby”), and many more.