To the Western elite who had fallen under sugar’s spell there were few options: deal with the small southern European sugar manufacturers, defeat the Turk, or develop new sources of sugar.
In school they call it the age of exploration, the search for territories and islands that would send Europeans all around the world.
“I’m a big woman myself.” I met Nick in the lunchroom, where he sat beside his mother, Warkeyie Jones, a striking 38-year-old.
Jones told me she had changed her own eating habits to help herself and to serve as an example for Nick.
Clarksdale, a big town in one of the fattest counties, in the fattest state, in the fattest industrialized nation in the world, is the bottom of the American drink, where the sugar settles in the bodies of kids like Nick Scurlock—the legacy of sweets in the shape of a boy.
Mosques of Marzipan In the beginning, on the island of New Guinea, where sugarcane was domesticated some 10,000 years ago, people picked cane and ate it raw, chewing a stem until the taste hit their tongue like a starburst.
Marzipan was the rage, ground almonds and sugar sculpted into outlandish concoctions that demonstrated the wealth of the state.
Clarksdale, a storied delta town that gave us the golden age of the Delta blues, its cotton fields and flatlands rolling to the river, its Victorian mansions still beautiful, is at the center of a colossal American health crisis.
“I used to snack on sweets all day, ’cause I sit at a desk, and what else are you going to do? “People say, ‘You’re doing it ’cause you’ve got a boyfriend.’ And I say, ‘No, I’m doing it ’cause I want to live and be healthy.’” Take a cup of water, add sugar to the brim, let it sit for five hours.
When you return, you’ll see that the crystals have settled on the bottom of the glass.
The student body is 91 percent African American, 7 percent white, “and three Latinos”—the remaining 2 percent. Take, for example, Nicholas Scurlock, who had recently begun his first year at Oakhurst Middle School.
“These kids eat what they’re given, and too often it’s the sweetest, cheapest foods: cakes, creams, candy. Nick, just tall enough to ride the coaster at the bigger amusement parks, had been 135 pounds going into fifth grade.
Walton, Clarksdale born and bred, was leading me through the school, discussing ways the faculty is trying to help students—baked instead of fried, fruit instead of candy—most of whom have two meals a day in the lunchroom.