Get the biscuits!
When I was in New York earlier this month, the governor put forward an initiative to tax all sugary sodas by 18%. “Sugary” is a relative word. If you follow the sweetened beverage industry at all, you know that sugar is kind of hard to come by in a carbonated drink: it’s all corncorncorn in the form of HFCS. Indeed, any pop (yes, POP, as I am a Midwesterner) that actually contains sugar has been spun as a retro beverage, a throwback to better days: it’s even hawked in old-fashioned small bottles.
My daughter and I are big fans of Antiques Roadshow, and on a rerun recently someone questioned the original purpose of a small chest their family owned. It was a sugar safe. Yes, I explained to our girl, at one point in time, cane sugar was so precious that one would lock it up in a chest, using it only for special occasions!
I thought of that chest when I roasted a ham in the smoker on Saturday morning. The glaze with which I basted the meat was a sorghum/mustard/garlic glaze. Way back when sugar (from cane or beets) was expensive, Southern and Midwestern families tended to grow their own sweetener in the form of sweet sorghum. Sorghum is a tall, corn-like grass (minus the cobs) whose canes are stripped of their leaves and then put through a wringer to extract the juice. Much like maple syrup, the resulting sap needs to be boiled/evaporated to get the concentrated end product, sorghum. And fall was traditionally the time when the stalks were harvested, the evaporators fired up. And as things would have it, the upside-down world we live in now has my jar of Indiana sorghum about eight times more expensive than the beet-derived Michigan sugar in the same pantry.
Is taxing sodas the answer to our ills? I am unsure, mainly because, like cigarette taxes, the tax disproportionately affects the poor, the ignorant, and the addicted. Perhaps if we ceased to subsidize corn production at the levels we do, we wouldn’t need these kinds of taxes. Perhaps there’s something to that sugar safe, to the idea of growing your own sweetener, that shouldn’t be discarded too: if it’s precious, you might not guzzle it.