When I lived in Gabon, the only way to get refined, white sugar was in the form of cubes. Let me restate that: the only practical way to get refined, white sugar was in cubes. I'm sure some of the swanky expat stores in the capital sold granulated sugar by the bag, but I shudder to think what it would have cost. I preferred to spend my luxury money on cheese and just crush up sugar cubes when I needed them for occasional baking. Besides, the sugar cubes were made locally, so it was a boost to the Gabonese economy to buy them. I'm a giver.
The kids and I hosted some friends for dinner tonight.* The friends brought the fixings for a before-dinner cocktail of a sugar cube soaked in bitters topped with champagne and a twist of lemon. (This must have a name, I just don't know it.) Seeing the box of sugar cubes made me think of Gabon, and how I would get these cravings for American dessert—American food of all kinds, but specifically dessert as at the time I had a raging sweet tooth—and how one of the many toils of baking there was crushing up those sugar cubes. I knew exactly how many made a cup, was it 48? Seems like to many. Maybe it was 36? I can't remember and it doesn't matter now. The cubes came in a cheap blue box, gritty and grainy. The sugar was coarsely ground and the cubes were fairly loosely held together; the Gabonese would cram an impossible amount of them into a single cup of Nescafé, often topped with an equally impossible amount of sweetened condensed milk. Forget the caffeine: the Gabonese were on a sugar high in the morning.
It was sunny today, and warm. Summer is ever so slowly on its way. I can't wait for the heat. I complained bitterly about the heat in Gabon, but ever since I've been back, I can't shut up about the cold and how it bothers me. This damp, dreary, chilly and totally typical Oregon spring has taken the wind out of my sails. When I lived in Gabon, I'd reach for a sweatshirt when the temps dropped to 80°F or below. I'm not quite that cold-adverse now, but I'm ready to feel the sun on my face, to sleep in something other than fleece, to not always need a scarf of some kind around my neck.
I'm just as happy, though, not to have to crush the sugar cubes anymore.
*As an aside, I'm quite proud of my Memorial Day non-BBQ: we had three kinds of homemade cheese + crackers and bread for an appetizer (cubed white cheese with basil and red pepper flakes paired with plain water crackers, soft herb cheese paired with roasted garlic baguette, and cubed white cheese with honey and cinnamon paired with sweet wheat biscuits); salmon teriyaki; sweet potato salad w/chili-lime dressing; sauteed asparagus; white rice; and for dessert, strawberry shortcake with homemade shortcakes and freshly whipped cream. YUMMERS.