Of the price of sugarcane juice!

Today I’m going to blog about something that you can’t make at home without investing in a large piece of machinery – a  sugarcane crusher! Sorry, guys, am ducking! Just couldn’t let a food blog bypass something so essential to gustatory happiness and soulful comfort as… sugarcane juice, could I?

Call it ganne ka ras, cheruku rasam – any name in any language – it’s (literally) as sweet!

Innumerable glasses of this nectar of the gods resulting in innumerable and almost surefire stomach upsets never deterred us from the next glass.

A bunch of us from school used to go to this place called Bal Bhavan in Hyderabad – a sort of children’s club where there were lessons in everything from singing to dance to skating and stamp collecting – the brainchild of some bureaucrat with true foresight!

This club was set in the middle of several acres of gardens open to the public and maintained meticulously by a team of gardeners as zealous as they were skilled. We – a bunch of four of us – were playing near a lotus pond and one of us had the bright idea of plucking lotuses to take home. No sooner thought than done – we plucked a few and started walking to the gate. Angry shouting behind us which we ignored for a while thinking someone else was being shouted at. Then as we turned a corner, we saw an irate gardener bearing down on us with a large broomstick in one hand. No thought was needed for action to take place- we took to our heels… luckily ten year old feet are way faster than fifty year old feet! We ran all the way out of the gardens to the bus stop before stopping to catch a breath… lotuses intact and triumphant! (The thought did occur later that the gardener was the wrong gender for a broomstick – surely wizards had some other mode of transport and the right of traveling by broomstick was reserved for witches?!)

Celebration at deliverance from a fate we could not imagine was indicated – and so, deciding to walk the four or so kilometres home, we splurged our bus fare to raise our glasses in good cheer – glasses of sugarcane juice, of course!

The secret of sugarcane juice, as with most other dishes – is in what you add to it. Watching the guy who owns the crusher (lucky bug!) lovingly feed the cane into the crusher along with a couple of lemon halves and a piece of ginger, waiting to see the cane being folded and fed back in a  couple of times more to extract the last possible ounce of juice – thank goodness microbial infection was not something that we were aware of! My mom, the ever-careful doc, did not want to deprive us of this treat but insisted on taking precautions… so the guy would be called home, made to wash and scrub his machine out with water provided from our garden tap, the crushed juice poured into a jug from home, not into his dubiously washed glasses – before we were allowed to drink it. The “clean” juice never tasted as good!

Plus the “correct” glass (see pics) was needed to ensure the experience… and the taste!

Here’s to sugar cane… hic!

And if you’re feeling cheated of a recipe, buy a sugarcane crusher, send the cane in with lemons and ginger and repeat till no more juice comes out! And don’t wash anything!