This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Most remarkably, the flesh-eating animals who do not consume any starches, or carbohydrates in their natural food, nevertheless exhibit Sugar in their muscular structures; and this they must engender from the peptones of their flesh nutriment. It is, however, the omnivorous pig which produces by far the largest amount of Sugar, and on a lean, watery diet.
To the Greeks and Romans of old, Sugar was only vaguely known: it seems to have been introduced into Europe during the times of the Crusaders. The Sugar Cane was grown in Cyprus about the middle of the twelfth century, from whence it was transplanted some time later into Madeira; and about the beginning of the sixteenth century it was carried from that island into the New World. Raw brown Sugar is Muscovado; when clarified it is loaf Sugar, or lump Sugar. In the United States of America considerable quantities of Sugar are obtained from the sap of the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharinum). And, as Mr. Knickerbocker tells, "Among the first Dutch settlers a large lump of this Sugar was always suspended by a string over the kitchen table; then each person would sip his tea, chocolate, or coffee, and bite a bit off the dependent Sugar-lump which they swung from one to the other. The Sugar of acorns is Quercite. Barbery Sugar is the finest quality, it being formerly thought to come from Barbary, before the West Indian trade was fully established.
Cane Sugar is an antiseptic; if heated sufficiently with water, or a dilute mineral acid, it breaks up into equal parts of dextrose, and laevulose, A certain Sugar-mite (acarid) infests some of the unrefined commercial Sugars, and is said to be the cause of grocers' itch. Saccharose, or Cane Sugar, is chemically a solid crystalline body, soluble in water, but less so in alcohol; it does not directly undergo when in solution either lactic, or alcoholic fermentation, but in the presence of certain ferments it is resolved (as already said) into dextrose, and laevulose, each of which is readily fermentable, and apt to provoke gout. But that this infirmity will sometimes arise spontaneously, without being personally incurred, or immediately inherited, seems to be certain. An instance in point is that of the noted Horace Walpole, with whom, as he relates, "gout began before he had reached his fortieth year".
His chief reason for objecting to this aldermanic distemper was that he could show no title to it. "If either my father, or my mother had suffered from it, I should not dislike it so much; but it is an absolute upstart with me, and, what is more provoking, I had trusted to my great abstinence for keeping me from it. If I had any gentleman-like virtue, as patriotism, or loyalty, I must have got something by them. I had nothing but that beggarly virtue - temperance, - and she had not interest enough to keep me from a fit of the gout." Again, after rallying from an attack in December, 1784, he said: "My recoveries surprise me more than my fits; but I am quite persuaded now that I know exactly how I shall end; as I am a statue of chalk, I shall crumble to powder, and then my inside will be blown away from my terrace, and hoary-headed Margaret will tell the people who come to see my house, ' One morn we missed him from the 'customed hill.' "
From the scarcity of Sugar on the Continent which was caused by Napoleon's system during the Peninsular War, came the discovery of its manufacture from beetroot, also the practice of adding chicory to coffee. It seems certain that the Romans were not acquainted with Sugar as an article of common, or daily use, nor as a crystallizable substance, though they had perhaps noticed a sweet extractive part in certain reeds. Lucian says: -
"Quique bibunt tenera dulces ab arundine suocos".
When Sugar was first introduced into England is a matter of uncertainty. It was evidently scarce, and doubtless dear, when in 1226 "Henry the Third asked the Mayor of Winchester to procure for him three pounds of Alexandria Sugar, 'if so much could be got;' also some rose-, and violet-coloured Sugar".
The Pharmacopoeia of the London Colleges first claimed Sugar for medicinal uses, and therein it must have played an important part, judging by the well-known proverb that a person standing in need of some essential possession which he lacks is "like an apothecary without Sugar." But because of its coming in as a medicament it was received with disfavour by some, who pronounced it to be heating; others declared it assails the lungs; and, again, others that it predisposes to apoplexy. But calumny has been compelled to recede before truth, and half a century ago it became told in a memorable apothegm that "Sugar does no harm except to the purse." Its present use gets daily more and more general; and now there is no alimentary substance which has undergone more processes of admixture, and transformation. The fact has become firmly established by experiments in the German Army, that a Sugar diet not only supplies men with greater energy than albuminous foods convey, but does this much more rapidly (which is very important when troops are on active service); so that in order to keep up a due effect the Sugar must be eaten frequently when on the march, which is not difficult to do, seeing the multiform preparations of portable Sugar. When Mr. Montagu Holbein practically succeeded in swimming across the English Channel from Dover to Calais (September, 1903) his food throughout the transit consisted chiefly of prepared milk, eggs, and brown Sugar sandwiches; which last he had always found very sustaining, either in long-distance cycling, such as when he made his twenty-four hours' record, or in his prolonged swims.
For preserving meat, as in, making hams, Sugar is a better material to use than salt, seeing that it withdraws less of the nutritive constituents into the brine, and forms a crust round the meat which helps to keep in the juices; only, before the ham (when treated thus) is used for cooking, it must first be immersed for some short while in water. Syrups made with simple lumps of Sugar, and water, have proved efficient to dispel a severe headache occurring from want of food, or hunger; and experiments have therefore been tried with a view to ascertain the value of lump Sugar as a luncheon, when other nourishment cannot be immediately had. It would he an easy matter to carry half-a-dozen pieces of such lump Sugar in one's pocket, so as to be masticated with no other accompaniment than a small draught of water; preventing, or at any rate postponing, by such means the fulness of blood, passively turgid within the head, which would otherwise ensue. For a sweetmeat of Sugar with butter, Toffee, or Taffy, is of value as a concentrated form of carbohydrates, attractive to children, and essentially well adapted for giving increase of fat, as well as for furnishing bodily warmth. It has the advantage that much of its Sugar is in the easily-digested "invert" condition.