Years ago, when I was working for Kraft Foods, a business trip took me to Montreal, which just happened to be the home town of my boss. He told me there were two things I had to hunt down: smoked meat and sugar pie. He didn’t know how little encouragement it took to get me to try new foods. I found both local specialties, and managed to indulge in them more than once—both on that first trip and on subsequent trips to Québec Province.
Sugar pie is a traditional confection almost as old as Québec itself. As with all venerable recipes, there are myriad versions, mostly reflecting what might have been available at different times and places. The version I have developed incorporates the most widely and consistently documented ingredients and produces a pie that reflects the taste and texture of the best sugar pies I had in Canada. Despite its name, it is, surprisingly, not overly sweet. It might be described as something like pecan pie without the pecans—and yet, because there is no corn syrup (as there is in pecan pie), sugar pie is not quite as sweet as pecan pie. Enjoy. Continue reading
Sugar Cane Juice Stand, India
The previous six posts have featured chocolate, coffee, and tea. While these three came from different continents—North America, Africa, and Asia, respectively—they all became popular in Europe around the same time—the 1600s. With the use of chocolate, coffee, and tea growing and spreading rapidly, there was an even more rapidly increasing demand for one more item—sugar. Sugar had been around for a while by the time it was being sought to sweeten this caffeinated trio, but more was needed. And while there were other sources of sweetness around, when speaking of sugar, most people were and are thinking of sugar from sugarcane.
Sugarcane has an often vague and definitely checkered past. Because there is now no wild sugarcane growing anywhere in the world, it is hard to pinpoint its place of origin, but most scholars think it originated in India, on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. From there, once its sweet secrets were discovered, it spread rapidly to Malaysia, Indonesia, Indochina, and southern China. Continue reading
Tea is statistically impressive and historically significant, but its real pleasure lies in consuming it. Good tea is like perfume and poetry in a cup. To make a cup of tea, you need a teaspoon. The teaspoon actually takes its name from the fact that it is the correct measure of the amount of tea leaves needed for making one cup of tea. If you use a tea bag, do not dunk it up and down, as this will make the tea bitter.
Tea should steep for 3–5 minutes (generally, the three minutes is for green tea, the five minutes for black). If you want your tea stronger, use more tea leaves; do not steep it longer, as it becomes bitter.
If you can find a good tea shop, it is worth exploring different kinds of tea, but if you are buying exotics, ask for guidance. Some Chinese teas need to be rinsed, but then can be used to make several pots of tea. Some white teas need to be brewed very quickly.
For the recipe below, Darjeeling would be the most appropriate tea, though any good black tea would work. Continue reading