I ordered myself a rare cup of coffee the other day. As I started to accessorize it I was struck by the sugar choices provided to me. At one end of the spectrum were little pink packets of artificial chemicals formerly known as sugar. Then there were the regular white packets of sugar for the ordinary Joe (no pun intended). Finally, for the grounded, health conscious, granola eating, tree hugging, earth loving sort, there were little brown packets of 'raw sugar'.
Raw sugar? What on earth does 'raw' sugar mean? What kind of conclusion is a layperson like myself supposed to be drawing from this label? There is obviously an inference that this sugar is somehow healthier than the other sugars. But how so? Is raw sugar free from some kind of strange preservative cocktail? Does 'processed' sugar lose all its essential vitamins and minerals when it is 'cooked'? Does the refining process eliminate the fiber from the 'sugar husk' which would otherwise help our food along it's winding journey through our colon?
I can understand the crazy pink packet sugar; it is the option of those who would trade their health for their image. It gives all the satisfaction of sweetness without the publicly discernible short-term consequences. I'm sure the actual ingredients used to make it are brewed up in a lab, likely with a hefty dose of petroleum byproducts. Furthermore, the powder inside is so fine you might wonder if it's intended to be snorted and thus get a much quicker sugar high. Even the hot pink packet color screams 'unnatural'. But it does the job society calls upon it to do: provide short term gain in exchange for long term lunacy, and I think we're all fine with that.
I can understand the regular sugar; it is the refuge of conformity. It comes in white packets, and it probably still came in white packets twenty years ago. The sugar is white, the packets are white, a reassuring consistency for those unable or unwilling to wrestle with the dilemmas presented by the other options. It's the 'I work too hard to think about sugar' sugar. It's the 'I've got too much debt to worry about my health or the planet' sugar. Though perhaps it is the 'I'm afraid to take a risk' sugar? Or even possibly the 'don't mess with my routine' sugar. Either way, it is clear that in Middle America, where life is uncomplicated, this would be the only sugar on offer.
But raw sugar? It comes in brown packets, a pretension of some kind of post-consumer recycled fiber, an insinuation of environmental sensitivity. As if we're supposed to believe it was purchased on some 'fair trade' market, direct from poor third world farmers. Yes, when that sugar got to the end of the till we know it answered 'paper', not 'plastic'. When you use that sugar you are affirming that you will be unhealthy, but the environment will not pay. When you use that sugar you are saving all those untold tons of greenhouse gases that the nefarious processed sugar industry generates while 'cooking' their sugar. You may be sucking back the empty calories, but some guy on a sugar plantation will feed his kids for one more day! It's the 'Ah yes, I can save the world and sweeten my coffee all at the same time' sugar.
So, what sugar do you pick?