Monday, January 16, 2006


Of Tobacco and Sugar

"From the time the Arabs with their alchemy brought 'alçucar,' as it was still called in the royal decrees having to do with America, into our Western civilization, it has been used in syrups, frosting, icings, cakes, candy, always with other flavors added to it. Tobacco is proud; it is taken straight, for its own sake, without company or disguise. Its ambition is to be pure, or to be so considered. Sugar by itself surfeits and cloys, and for this reason it needs company and uses a disguise or a chaperon. It must have some other substance to lend it a seductive flavor. And it, in turn, repays the favor by covering up the flatness, insipidness or bitterness of other ingredients with its own sweetness. A miscegenation of flavors. This basic contrast between sugar and tobacco is emphasized even more throughout the whole process of their agricultural, industrial and commercial development by the amorphism of the one and the polymorphism of the other." Extract from Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar by Fernando Ortiz; English translation made by Harriet de Onís from a text specially prepared in Spanish by the author. The book from which this was extracted has an introduction by Bronislaw Malinowski and a prologue by noted Cuban historian and sociologist Herminio Portell Vilá. It was published in New York by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. in 1947.

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