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Sydney, Australia
My musings and meanderings on childhood - mine juxtaposed with that of my kids'. Everyday incidents and images from our life in Sydney turn my thoughts towards my own wonder years growing up in Bandra, Bombay, India.

21 April 2011

Sugarcane Sugar-hit

Guess what I saw at the Chatswood Food Markets the other day? Sugarcane juice! I have never drunk sugarcane juice in Australia, so there was only one thing to do – have a glass. One sip and I was transported back to Bombay, in front of the ganna (sugarcane) juice stall opposite Elco Arcade on Hill Road, Bandra.

Alison drinking sugarcane juice in Luxor, Egypt - December 2010

Sugarcane juice – a perfect sugar-hit for a hot summer’s day.

You’re standing in front of the sugarcane juicewalla. Should you? Shouldn’t you?
Diarrhoea for a week is a strong possibility. Should you? Shouldn’t you?
You have no idea where the water for the ice comes from. Should you? Shouldn’t you?
Flies buzz above the fermenting heap of sugarcane remains. Should you? Shouldn’t you?
The glasses are cursorily rinsed in a tub of water – no soap, no scrubber, no nothing. Should you? Shouldn’t you?
The sprit is willing, but the flesh is weak. You should, shouldn’t you???
Your mind is playing tic-tac-toe. You think you should.
Your tastebuds win. You HAVE to have it. Yes, you SHOULD!
Ek (one) glass,” you order. “Baraf nahin chahiye,” you add as an afterthought. No ice.

There's a bundle of sugarcane sticks all standing sentry. The gana juicewalla selects a stick or two and scrapes 'em clean with his knife. The scrapping clean step is optional. The metal juice presser gets rolling – a big, bad-ass contraption comprising of two spherical grinders. The sugarcane is pushed through from one side. The mighty jaws crush the cane flat as the juice spurts out into a receptacle. The spent sugarcane comes out from the other end.

Adrak?” (fresh ginger) the man enquires. “Hah ji!” (Yes, please!). A piece of ginger is pushed into the crusher along with the sugarcane, giving it a zing. The wheels keep turning. The sugarcane is passed through again and again until every last drop is squeezed out. A squeeze of nimboo (sour lime) to balance the saccharine sweetness. One sip and you're in heaven. Rs 3 for half a glass or Rs 5 for a full glass.

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