The History of Hawai'ian Sugar Cane and Rhum Agricole (In Person)

image courtesy Sarah Lohman
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Taught by Sarah Lohman

Sarah Lohman is a culinary historian and the author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed book Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine. She focuses on the history of American food as a way to access stories of women, immigrants, and people of color, and to address issues of racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Her work has been featured inTheWall Street Journal andThe New York Times, as well as onAll Things Considered; and she has presented across the country, from the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, DC to The Culinary Historians of Southern California. She is also 1/2 of the Masters of Social Gastronomy, a monthly food science and history talk at Caveat NYC, with Brainery co-founder Jonathan Soma. 



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Sugar cane was one of the first plants brought with settlers from Tahiti to Hawai’i several thousand years ago. After Europeans arrival and American colonization, sugar cane plantations were often a gateway for Asian immigrants, who worked brutal jobs in the cane fields before immigrating to the American mainland. But as plantations grew, unique, heirloom sugar cane varieties disappeared. Additionally, the last sugar refinery in Hawaii closed in 2016, and the land that historically grew cane for 200 years sits fallow.

Will the changes in Hawai’i’s cane industry mean the end of heirloom sugar cane, or should the difficult and dangerous process of growing and refining cane die out? Journey with me as we visit Hawai’i and the recently closed HC&S refinery, and trace the story of sugar’s imperialist takeover of Hawai’i.

Then, we’ll talk about a series of new distilleries that make rhum agricole, a process that distills from the pressed juice of heirloom sugar cane. This unique rhum may be the key to saving endangered sugar cane.

We'll taste rhum agricole and a cocktail made with it during the talk! 

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