The sugar cane is native to the Indian subcontinent. Indeed, India is the birthplace of sugar. The word is derived from the Sanskrit karkara, which meant sand or gravel, but it also referred to the crystalline substance that remains when juice from the sugar cane is evaporated. Karkara became sakkara in Prakrit which the Greeks made saccharus, the Arabs made sukkur, and so on.
Of the many contributions of India to the world, not just culturally but agriculturally too, sugar is undoubtedly one of the greatest. A great many sweet dishes are part of Indian cuisine. Bengal is noted for its endless array of milk-based sweets. K. C. Das and Jalajog are among the more famous of the hundreds of eateries where sandesh, rasagulla, rajbhogh, jilebi and scores of other sweets are sold and eaten by thousands of people each and every day of the week. Of all the tastes available to the palate, sweetness is perhaps the most enjoyable, which is why we speak of a sweet smile, a sweet melody, sweet kiss, sweetheart, and so on.
There was (is?) a branch of Jalajog right across home in those days. I must have gone there countless times to satisfy my penchant for Bengali sweets. Their payodhi (sweetened curd) was my favorite, and its quality had been certified by none other than Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Laureate in literature and the pillar and symbol of twentieth century Bengali culture,
Culture conditions people in their likes and dislikes of foods by exposing them to specific tastes during childhood years. One can expand one’s tastes and acquire new ones later. By some mechanism our taste buds seem to be tuned to resonate to specific palatal titillations right from the early phase of our development. This is why people always respond heartily to the cuisine in which they were brought up, and what may strike one as a most nauseating concoction may be a delicacy of the highest sophistication for another. That is why sandesh and idlis have the same appeal to me as haggis has to a Scot or snails are to a Frenchman. As Lucretius said,
Quod aliis cibus est, allis fuat acre venenum.
What is food to some, may be sharp poison to others.