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At the table it is white, refined and elegant

Punjab, India - December 2023

I never wondered about the production process of sugar, that perfect white ingredient we consume every day at the table. Until, Ritz, an Indian friend of mine let me taste sugar cane juice for the first time.

I am in Punjab, an agricultural state in North India, rich and with a fertility of land unparalleled in the world. It is the cradle of Sikhism, a cult founded on inner spiritual search and sharing. I am visiting an Indian friend, who has opened the doors of his house to me for a few days. He lives in Chandigarh, a modernist city, designed in 1951 following India's Independence from the United Kingdom. Designed by architect Le Corbusier, it represents the model of a city that breaks the shackles of colonial tradition, with the aim of being applied to all cities in the country. This was not the case. Built on a grid system, Chandigarh is divided into 56 sectors with autonomous services and schools. Ritz's house is located in Sector 11. 

It is a beautiful day in December, the perfect month to visit India, where I have a day at the building site of their country house. As an architect, I am very curious. 

After an hour's drive, I find myself at the foot of the mountain range that precedes the Himalayas. The landscape around me is divided between immense cultivated fields, villas and small houses, tree-lined avenues and small shops here and there. Seeing a construction site in India of a house under construction is quite a special experience, from the scaffolding made of super-strong bamboo canes to the safety of the workers. The house is very beautiful surrounded by fields of potatoes and sugar cane. 

“'Bite it”, Ritz tells me after cutting a sugar cane and peeling the end of it.

A juice comes out and it is really like eating a sugar cube. I am amazed, like a child tasting a sweet for the first time. This is natural sugar, raw without any refining process, different even from the cane sugar we know. 

We stop along the road, near a small structure, I see some smoke and hear music coming from some speakers on the ground. There are several people queuing with a few rupees in their hands: they are buying brown balls in paper bags, they are buying raw sugar. 

I am in one of the many places where sugar is produced by hand, from the grinding of sugarcane to the finished product. It is strange, it is not the sugar we know, it is a soft, moist substance with the colour of the earth and although it is not inviting at all I taste it: it is the same substance only with a different colour and colouring. The one we use every day has undergone a refining process until it turns white. "It's more elegant," Ritz tells me and asks, "would it be as good if it arrived so raw on your tables?" Maybe not. 

Punjab, India
Sugar canes
Punjab, India
Bite it!
Punjab, India
Little shops around
Punjab, India
Sugar's production
Punjab, India
Punjab, India
Raw sugar

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