Sugar

Jul 25, 2012 by

If you are a lover of “sweets” you will probably find this book an interesting read.  SUGAR by Edith A. Browne is  a reproduction of the original book first published in 1911. Edith writes her book in a very candid talkative way, and it reads as if she is talking directly to you.  If you can forgive her ignorant/racist vernacular, the book is full of interesting facts  about sugar, sugar plantations, sugar cane, sugar beets, sugar production etc!  “Let me give you a few hints before you follow our leader in this expedition among the fields. Mind how you push the canes asunder to get through, for the leaves have edges that cut like a razor. Keep your gloves on, if you can endure the heat of them. But at any cost to your hands, you must guard your face, especially your eyes, and you must be prepared to find this a difficult task when you are among the fields of full-grown canes. And do not jump in regulation good form, so as to come down on both feet at once ; the slimy banks of the drainage trenches, which you will have to clear, are very slippery, and if both feet come down together and do not get a good grip, you are more than likely to fall back into the muddy water. Whereas, if you give yourself two chances of a foothold, and lose one, you may still manage to shuflle into safety. The navigation canals you will have to cross, to get from field to field, are too wide to jump. Each of you will go across separately in a floater ; be very careful to keep your balance, particularly at the moments when it is shoved off, and when it bumps against the opposite shore. As we follow our guide, we see canes in numerous stages of their plantation career, and discover workers engaged in many different kinds of field labour. In one section, men are busy reaping, and piling the cut canes up by the dam-side, ready to be taken to the mill in punts. In a neighbouring field, we emerge into a tangle of canes, and have to make our way very slowly and warily. An intervening trench strikes us as being an expanse of open country, in contrast with the cane thicket, and it is a pleasant change to jump through the air after a long struggle to tunnel through a barricade of leaves ; but a second after landing, we are again busy tunnelling with hands and shoulders, the while our feet plod wearily through a thick bed of mud. At intervals we come across an old coolie woman, a pretty coolie lass, or a group of bewitching little coolie children. All the workers in this field are weeding. In the course of traversing this section we chance upon the black ” driver,” who is in charge of the gang. The next field is an open expanse of stubble ; here the canes have all been reaped, but the ground is in the clutches of their massed roots, or ” stools.” Labourers have begun to clear this space ready for planting, and you see many hands busy ploughing with shovel and fork. And in a near neighbouring field a mighty fire is at work, devouring the trash, thus making ready for the reapers. Heading for the main navigation trench, we pick up our little houseboat some distance ahead of where we left her, and proceed to travel on among the cane-lands to our journey’s end. Sun-lovers though we be, we are now grateful for the shelter and shadow of the hut amidships, and we are so tired that its sugar-bag carpeted floor and sugar-bag cushioned seats seem to be the height of luxury. We close our eyes and indulge in day-dreaming. We are wandering through a picture-gallery of life, in which every scene that is presented to us has a double power of appeal. Each memory-painted canvas shows us fascinating Orientals, draped in picturesque native costume, apparently playing at work on an arena which is luxuriantly bedecked with stately and graceful sugar-canes ; and, at the same time, these pictures make us feel the atmosphere is charged with Western enterprise and activity. So vivid are the impressions made by life in the Demerara cane-fields, that it is impossible to imagine time can ever fade them, or distance rob them of one iota of their enchantment.  A VISIT TO A DEMERARA SUGAR FACTORY We are going to visit the largest sugar factory in Demerara, an establishment that is not only distinguished for its size and output, but for its up-to- date machinery and methods. The sugar estate of which it forms such a vital part is known as ” Diamond,” and embraces many estates that have now been grouped under one management. Plantation Diamond, the most extensive sugar estate in Demerara, covers a vast area on the east bank of the Demerara River, on the outskirts of Georgetown. Factory Diamond is situated about an hour’s drive distant from the city. The way to the factory is along a road teeming with picturesque scenes, and occupying the foreground of a magnificent display of tropical vegetation. True, the whole spectacle is arrayed on a dead level arena ; but flat country hath its charms, as everyone knows who has visited Holland or the Norfolk Broads, and the mudlands of Demerara that have been trans- formed into sugar-cane land can hold their own with any flat lands in the matter of fascination. For a long stretch the road threads its way through an avenue of palms, aloft on whose giant, branchless trunks are plumelike boughs that nod gracefully in the breeze. Here it is flanked by a canal, which is entirely covered by a thick carpet, that has a ground- work of green, richly bedecked with a raised pattern of cerise-hued Lotus – lilies. A little farther on is another canal, with an equally thick carpet, but this time the design is wrought by delicately tinted, lavender water-hyacinths. And all the while, in the background, are waving fields of sugar-cane, spreading around and across to the remote horizon. In some parts this same scene is displayed on both sides of the road, but at intervals on the river-side the land narrows and becomes a scrub patch intersected by canals, with kokers or sluice-gates, which play an important part in the drainage system of the cane – fields. At intervals, too, the view of the sugar-cane display is partially blocked by logics, rows of labourers’ dwellings that front the canals ; and sometimes it is wholly blotted out by a foreground of market gardens, planted with cocoa-nut trees, plantains, and numerous other tropical fruits and vegetables. Again, there are roadside scenes of daily life which temporarily draw our attention from the cane-fields. We are constantly meeting and passing some of the coolies and coloured folk, who comprise the labouring population of the estates, or an enterprising John Chinaman who has made a prosperous business concern of his little shanty of a store in the vicinity of the plantations. We see women squatting alongside a trench, washing clothes by the novel method of beating them with bats ; a wedding-party of East Indians driving in a cab, the bride closely veiled, the bridegroom crowned with a pagoda-like erection in bamboo and cardboard, bedecked with tinsel streamers and coloured paper rosettes ; darkies balancing on their heads small, medium-sized, or enormous burdens of all descriptions, according to their accustomed method of carrying anything and everything ; odd figures playing shop on the ground, seated beneath an old umbrella beside a tray of fairings. But in spite of these many distractions, the predominant cane-fields ultimately succeed in winning our undivided attention. They are the great spectacle ; everything else gradually assumes its rightful position as part of the mise en scene. As far as the eye can see — and it has a wide range of vision over this level country — they clothe the landscape. Where the canes, with their numerous streamer-leaves, flank an intersecting trench, they look tall ; indeed, we can see that if we stood amongst the tallest of them they would tower above our heads. But taken all together, the cane-fields are dwarfed by the gaunt factory-shafts, which here and there dart very high up into the air. “  Enjoy!

 

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