Below the Surface: Make It Sweet

Published online: May 29, 2020 Below the Surface Tyrell Marchant, editor
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This column appears in the May 2020 issue of Sugar Producer.

A while back, a fire started in my grandparents’ garage. Thankfully, the garage was separate from the house, and the house and everything in it were unharmed. The garage’s old cinder block walls were left standing, and an ancient, mounted pair of elk antlers was miraculously spared. Everything else in the building was reduced to a pile of melted, charred, twisted rubble. There were only two things in the garage of any real value: a four-wheeler that was getting pretty old anyway, and the contents of my grandmother’s fruit room.

Replacing a four-wheeler, though not exactly cheap, was a fairly straightforward proposition. The fruit room, on the other hand? Years—perhaps decades—of gardening, fruit-picking and canning literally went up in smoke that night. Grandpa, in particular, mourned the loss of all those home-canned peaches, which he had always meticulously rationed because that was the one thing he never wanted to run out of.

A month or so later, I was at Grandma and Grandpa’s helping carry in some groceries from the car. As I carried a bunch of canned beans to the new fruit room in the basement, I silently lamented the relative bareness of the shelves. I couldn’t help but notice, though, that among the first things Grandma had begun restocking were several big bags of sugar, along with boxes and boxes of cake and brownie mixes. With a facetious grin, I said to her, “Making sure your sweet tooth’s still supplied, huh, Grandma?”

“Well, the way I see it,” my grandma replied with a twinkle in her eyes, yet in all seriousness, “if there ever is a time when we really need our food storage, a little bit of sweetness will go a long way in the morale-boosting department.”

For some reason I can’t quite explain, that statement struck me as very profound. Folks who maintain a big food storage do so precisely to prepare against a time when it’s difficult to get the things they typically are able to enjoy. If you’re going through one of those bleak times—whether it’s caused by the loss of a job, some natural disaster, or pandemic-depleted grocery store shelves—it hardly seems like a strict diet of powdered milk and expired-four-months-ago cream of mushroom soup, staples though they may be, is going to provide much hope for better days ahead. A warm, gooey brownie, on the other hand, will lift your spirits every time.

People are always saying that if life gives you lemons, the best thing to do is to make lemonade. But you know what other ingredient is just as essential to lemonade as lemons? That’s right—sugar.

Now, I’m obviously not advocating for anybody’s exclusive consumption of so-called junk food; that would be irresponsible of me, and it would probably cause more problems than it would fix. But if we have to take our medicine, as one practically-perfect-in-every-way nanny once wisely reminded us all, a spoonful of sugar will indeed help it go down.

People are always saying that if life gives you lemons, the best thing to do is to make lemonade. But you know what other ingredient is just as essential to lemonade as lemons? That’s right—sugar. If you’re reading this, it’s a good bet you’re directly involved in the production of high-quality sugar. It should bring solace to your heart and mind to know that you’ve played a part in making someone feel better, particularly at this unique and often stressful point in history.

Maybe it’s a beleaguered mom who feels like she’s in waaaaaaaay over her head in the fight to keep five kids semi-educated, but who knows her secret-recipe cookies are guaranteed to bring everyone around the table with a smile. Maybe it’s a homesick college freshman, a long way from home, unable to afford to change her plane ticket, quarantined to her tiny apartment, trudging her way through suddenly-online classes with the help of a box of Oreos and a jar of Jif. Maybe it’s an exhausted on-call doctor, 27 hours into a 36-hour shift, pounding his ninth Dr Pepper in seven seconds flat.

Whoever it is, a dose of sugar is adding some good into countless lives at a time when people are desperate for a taste of positivity.