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Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Sugar production altered dramatically in 1747, when Andreas Sigismund Marggraf and Franz Carl Achard successfully produced sugar from mangelwurzel (Beta vulgaris), known today as the sugar beet. See sugar beet. In 1800 Germans consumed, on average, 1 kilo of sugar per year, about double what they had eaten a hundred years earlier. However, beet sugar really took off only in the 1840s, and between 1875 and World War I Germany became one of the world’s great sugar exporters. Having become accustomed to ample and widely affordable provisions of sugar, Germans were forced to face scarcity due to wars and economic crises. See sugar rationing. During the British blockade in World War I, even seemingly abundant crops such as potatoes and sugar beets were quickly reduced to scarce commodities as people turned to them to compensate for the lack of fat and meat. In addition, the armament industry used fat and sugar to replace blocked imports of glycerine, which was necessary for the production of nitroglycerine explosives. The government also exported sugar, potatoes, and coal to neutral countries in exchange for raw materials to use in German factories. During World War II women developed their own methods of preparing starch from potatoes and syrup from sugar beets. Culinary ingenuity resulted in ersatz treats such as marzipan look-alikes made from grated potatoes or semolina mixed with a little sugar and artificial bitter-almond flavoring. See trompe l’oeil. Postwar CARE parcels always contained sweet foods such as canned and dried fruits, honey, chocolate, and sugar, making sugar readily available once again. On the Berlin black market in 1947, 1 kilo of sugar could be had for 7 or 8 American cigarettes, while 1 kilo of various kinds of cooking fat cost 23 to 25.