Sugar rush

Sacks of sugar piled high at the Colonial Sugar Refining Company refinery, early 1900s (pic: Alexander Turnbull Library)

Sacks of sugar piled high at the Colonial Sugar Refining Company refinery, early 1900s (pic: Alexander Turnbull Library)

I’m well known for having a very sweet tooth, and it’s a characteristic I share with many others. New Zealanders have had a long love affair with sugar, and New Zealand cookbooks tend to have a heavy emphasis on cakes and biscuits.

Unlike their cousins elsewhere in the Pacific, Māori were unable to grow sugar cane in Aotearoa, so sugar was introduced by Pākehā settlers. The first sugar refinery in New Zealand was established, with the aid of a government grant, in 1882 in Birkenhead, Auckland.

In the early 20th century imports of sugar from Fiji dominated New Zealand’s trade with the Pacific, but Fiji’s role as a sugar supplier to New Zealand gradually declined over the century. Since 1960 most of New Zealand’s sugar has been imported from Australia.

Sugar gets a bad rap these days – blamed, quite rightly, for its role in a range of ills from obesity to diabetes. Like other products that can be damaging to health, it can be difficult to get people to consume less sugar because it is associated with pleasure and sociability.

Still, with all due respect to the wonderful work of public health advocates, I would like to celebrate all things sweet and sugary on Te Ara.

Jam tomorrow and jam yesterday but never jam today.
At Te Ara, it’s jam every day! Jars of jam are beautiful to look at and even better to taste. You can watch jam being made, see the teenage workers of Kirkpatrick’s of Nelson stirring huge pots of jam, and admire Miss Bush’s remarkable dress (a promotion for Kirkpatrick’s jam).

If I knew you were coming, I’d’ve baked a cake.
Too late to bake for those unexpected guests? Don’t worry, Te Ara has you covered. We’ve got cakes of all kinds and cakes for every occasion: birthdays, Christmas, wedding anniversaries (this one brought a tear to my eye)…

Pie in the sky when you die.
Peeved by posthumous pie promises? You can get your piece of the pie right now at Te Ara. Pies can be sweet or savoury, but I’m guessing these prospective prize pies are sweet and full of fruit. Then there are the pie’s fruity relatives, such as the crumble.

That really takes the biscuit.
If someone’s taken your biscuit, we’ll help you replenish your supplies. Care for a Girl Guide biscuit, perhaps? Or feast your eyes on this amazing photo of dough scraps from the Griffin’s factory in Lower Hutt.

We all scream for ice cream.
Stop screaming and start dreaming. A classic Kiwi hokey pokey? Or some swanky up-market ice cream? Something you can share with your dog? Uranium ice cream, anyone? Or plain old chocolate and vanilla on a stick. I’m sorry, though: bacon and egg ice cream is just wrong.

And that’s not all: we’ve also got pavlova, chocolate, custard squares, baklava and more. Now, where can I get a nice cup of tea

2 comments have been added so far

  1. Comment made by Mel || October 5th, 2015

    you missed the lollies!
    Is it only in NZ we have a lolly race?

  2. Comment made by Ewan || October 5th, 2015

    Excellent point, Mel – how could I forget lollies, including such New Zealand favourites as pineapple lumps and chocolate fish? While the term ‘lolly’ is shared with Australia, I think the term ‘lolly scramble’ is unique to New Zealand (though happy to be corrected):

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