You probably twirled a little honey into your tea this morning, or bought Starbucks preloaded with sugar, not thinking about it more than the vague guilt of calories. But this guy – Eliades Garcia — he thinks about it all the time. It’s how he earns his living in Vilcabamba, Ecaudor, working for an absentee American owner of this mini sugar-factory. Only here they call it panela and it’s basically molten sugar cane, simmered and stirred for days until it cooks down into a syrup. That’s when Eliades’ wood paddle comes in – lifting and aerating the panela so that light passes through it and looks for all the world like liquid gold. When it gets to just the right consistency he pours it into round molds where it semi-hardens into a paste. Want some? Just head to a street market in South America and look for rough brown discs about the size of wax-coated cheese wheels.
Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa. Like travel anthologies? I’m in a brand new one called Alone Together: Tales of Sisterhood and Solitude in Latin America which you can get here.