Brands That I Love

In my pantry, products "Made in Texas"#151; from Imperial Pure Cane Sugar to Falfurrias butter—have always had pride of place.

THE NEWS THAT IMPERIAL SUGAR closed its Texas refinery in December would have turned my sweetheart of a grandmother into a real sourpuss. When I was growing up, Mimi gave me many bits of useful advice: “Bait your own hook,” for example, and “Never roast marshmallows on oleander sticks—they’re poisonous.” But no nugget of her wisdom have I heeded more faithfully than her admonition to always use Imperial Pure Cane Sugar. “It’s Texas sugar,” she would say, “Texas sugar from Texas cane, made right over there in Sugar Land.” Near Bay City, the small coastal town where she and my grandfather lived, there were hundreds of acres of sugarcane fields that helped supply Imperial’s raw material. In the late fifties and throughout the sixties, when my sisters and brother and I visited during the summer, a country drive might take us past workers cutting and stacking cane. Occasionally, my grandfather would stop to talk (prices too low, sun too hot), and one of the men would chop each of us kids a short section of the thick, purplish cane. Because sugarcane is dense and solid, we had to bite down hard to release the sweet, coconutty juice from the pulp, developing a most satisfactory crunch-slurp-crunch-slurp rhythm. (The experience, like all childhood fun, was heightened by an element of danger: The woody fibers could easily slice your tongue.)

My Mimi was a renowned cook and a tireless supporter of South Texas sugarcane growers. She used Imperial sugar in her dewberry cobbler, refrigerator lemon pie, and other dessert specialties. We children cut out the red “Pure Cane” squares from the bags and sent them off to get a copy of “My First Cookbook,” which included basic recipes (such as peanut-butter-and-brown-sugar sandwiches) using Imperial’s products. The cookbook cover showed a pretty young girl with stars in her eyes—Lone Stars: Imperial always emphasized its ties to the state. In my collection of Texas ephemera, I have an old Imperial ink blotter that declares, “Texas Industries Build Texas. Buy Texas Made Products.”

No one will miss Imperial Sugar more than the residents of Sugar Land, which was named for the industry that spawned it. The town was long dominated by Imperial’s ten-story building of rose brick, built in 1925 and dubbed the Pink Lady by employees who went about the business of producing up to three million pounds of sugar a day (granulated, powdered, light brown, dark brown, cubed). But by the

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