Sugar Cane Is Hard To Eat.
In my never-ending attempt to try everything I can, I decided to try my hand at eating sugar cane, which is as present as banana palms, but I just hadn’t noticed. From the towns to the most remote areas, everyone gnaws on sugar cane. My only past experience with it was at Café Atlantico, where it was a garnish in my mojito (and even then, I honestly had no idea what to do with it).
One of my co-workers was a sugar-cane eating fiend. I had seen her eat it many times on the back stoop of our office during work. It seemed soft and effortless in her experienced hands. I figured, It can’t be that difficult.
My opportunity came one day when I had gone monitoring. I bought a whole sugar cane (about 4 feet long) in a tiny rural village, and the children from whom I bought it broke it into foot-long pieces.
For those of you who haven’t seen a sugar cane before, it looks like fat bamboo. And it’s as hard as bamboo, as I soon found out.
To eat sugar cane, you have to first break it into manageable pieces. Happily, this was done for me. Then you are supposed to remove the hard exterior, slice the pulpy interior into bite-sized chunks, chew them, and spit out the pulp. This all sounds very easy.
Well. Imagine trying to hack off a branch of a tree using a blunt knife: chips fly, but you still make zero headway. That’s what it’s like. When you have finally spent 20 minutes on the sugar cane, the woody exterior finally removed, you then have to cut the interior. The hacking is not through—you still have to cut it crosswise. This time, it’s not just chips flying: it’s sugar juice.
When the cubes are cut, you can finally chew on them, which is, admittedly, delicious. It’s sugary, of course, but not as strong as candy. After chewing on it, the sugary pulp becomes hard like wood, and you spit it out before proceeding to the next piece. It’s very funny to watch the spitting process—some are very delicate about it, depositing the pulp in a trashcan nearby; others throw it on the ground. Some, like one toddler who was absently enjoying his snack, accidentally spit on your foot.
The process of eating sugar cane is kind of like eating crab—a lot of work for a little food. I tried eating it last night. To my great displeasure, I nearly chopped off my finger, got sugar juice all over my tablecloth, and broke the plate I was using into bits after a long struggle with my dull (Chinese) knife. I’m still picking bits of sugar cane from my hair and clothing. For once, I was actually happy to be alone in my apartment, because no one was there to witness the ridiculous spectacle.