While researching the raw materials used to manufacture the Strangler we found ourselves most interested in the question of how the sugar water was made. This curiosity quickly got the better of us and our sugar notes soon took up as much space as our Strangler article. For such a little question it was quite a puzzle, but we eventually came to a satisfactory solution. We then figured it would be fun to share and this mini-essay is the result.
In A Song of Ice and Fire white cane sugar is notably absent as a sweetener. Even if sugercane production were limited to just a few islands in the Jade Sea, wealthy POV characters like Tyrion, Daenerys, or Cersei would surely encounter a packet or a bowl’s worth of pure white sugar at some point, but they do not even chance upon so much as a pinch. Not a single east-west trade ship is ever encountered that is carrying it. Euron does not present any cane sugar to the Kingsmoot, although he presents “chests of nutmeg, cloves, and saffron” (FfC Aeron II). This makes little sense if sugarcane cultivation were underway in the East, as plantations would be exporting this white gold as they are exporting pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and saffron. Rather than sugar, the go to sweetener in East and West is honey. Honey is served straight on the cone, added to porridge, spread on bread, made into sauces, basted on roasting meats, soaked into sweet cakes, distilled into mead, and mixed with wine and milk and lemon water. It is only in Old Volantis that queen honey has been checked by a popular taste for purple sweet beets. They are “served with almost every meal” and used to make a desert soup “as thick and rich as purple honey” (DoD Quentyn I).
And yet a certain amount of sugar refining clearly exists and makes its presence known in the kitchens of the Red Keep, Highgarden, and Sunspear. Sugar frosts some of the lemon cakes Sansa enjoys at King Robert’s court (GoT Sansa II). At the feast following the tourney of Bitterbridge Renly’s court is served spun sugar unicorns (CoK Catelyn II). At Joffrey and Lady Margaery’s wedding feast one of the dishes Tyrion samples is a leche of brawn “spiced with cinnamon, cloves, sugar, and almond milk” (SoS Tyrion VIII). When Ser Gregor’s skull is delivered to Sunspear the cook joins in on the celebration by serving the court spun sugar skulls filled with sweet custard and bits of plum and cherry (DoD Hotah). But, again, it is never served or consumed as crystal. Outside the kitchens and tables of the great, sugar crystal totally unknown. And then, along the waterfronts of the world, there is rum. Continue reading