Have people fought with sugar cubes?
February 6, 2014 12:29 PM   Subscribe

I already feel sheepish for asking this. I have a French colleague who swore up and down that there are places (prisons? He was vague, we were drinking) where sugar cubes are banned, because they are used to cut people in fights. A supposed bonus is that the sugar makes resulting wound heal poorly. This all sounds like the kind of BS I would be proud to make up myself, and it's surprisingly difficult to look up on Google. Has anyone else heard of this? Because if it's a thing, that is nutty.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I'm sure I saw this referenced in a French film, A Prophet maybe..?
posted by Caskeum at 12:38 PM on February 6

Just an idea, I have no evidence to back it up, but if they had some sort of heat they could make toffee, toffee shards can be sharp and quite hard, just ask my mother who snapped a tooth trying to bite a toffee apple.
posted by wwax at 12:39 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]

Sugar can be sharp, see here:

I'm going to assume that she cut herself with the knife used to cut the sugar from the loaf.

I've cut myself badly on sugar that I had made into syrup and that had hardened. A cube could be perhaps melted into a shiv.

On preview: what wwax said.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:40 PM on February 6

Sugar cubes may be banned to prevent the brewing of prison wine / prune / hooch.

If anything, sugar is often used to promote healing of wounds.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:45 PM on February 6 [2 favorites]

Hm. Dude was emphatic that you grip a sugar cube and go for the face. Again, I have never, ever heard of this.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 12:45 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]

Or people use sugar and boiling water as a weapon. The boiling water hurts, and the sugar forces it to stick and create a napalm effect.

Is it possible they don't serve extra sugar, in cubes or otherwise?
posted by mochapickle at 12:46 PM on February 6

"Sugar can be sharp, see here:

I'm going to assume that she cut herself with the knife used to cut the sugar from the loaf.

Admiral, the German wiki version is more specific referencing the sugar paste as the culprit. Used tools are mentioned as well, namely a hammer, a pick, a crusher and pliers (Zuckerhammer, Zuckerhacke, Zuckerbrecher oder Zuckerzange). I found a nice pic showing some of them. Knives seem not to play a role here. But you know, wiki is not a perfect source.
posted by travelwithcats at 1:03 PM on February 6

There's also various recipes for prison-brewed booze --- since fermentation requires sugar, perhaps a sugar ban would make sense? Doesn't explain your friend's insistance on sugar cubes of course.
posted by easily confused at 1:03 PM on February 6

Doesn't it just say that Rad's wife is said to have hurt herself making sugar cubes? Given that the sugar cones were up to 1.5 meters tall and cut with axes, I'm still thinking the tool is the cuprit. But even if it were the sugar, the sugar cone (see link) is a much different confection than a sugar cube--i.e., it was not an aggregate of granulated sugar, it was a hard, solid mass.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:22 PM on February 6

You can cut somebody with almost anything if you know what you are doing. I remember reading a book about a martial art that turns everything into a weapon, but don't remember the name of it. Maybe this will jog someone's memory.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:28 PM on February 6

Look, I've cut the roof of my mouth with particularly crusty bread, so it's not a stretch to think that a sugar cube raked across someone's face could be nasty. But then, a similarly-sized pebble would seem to be much more effective, and, as noted above, sugar can actually aid in healing--I had a vet use it on my wounded cat. I'm not surprised at a sugar ban in prison--I've heard that's common, due to the pruno issue, but I'm guessing your friend's story is apocryphal.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:30 PM on February 6

"Doesn't it just say that Rad's wife is said to have hurt herself making sugar cubes?"

No, the frequent injuries actually sparked the idea to make cubes in the first place.
There is no doubt that someone can injure themselves with any kind of tool, hammer, pick, crusher, pliers or other, but in this instance I took it that it was not the case.

Anyway, did your French colleague say if they treated the sugar cubes somehow? Maybe they melt them down to make sharp shards.
posted by travelwithcats at 1:35 PM on February 6

The context was actually bar fights, so I don't think some kind of processing would be a part of it. I am now thinking that he was trolling me, or hung with a really idiosyncratic crowd earlier in life.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 1:45 PM on February 6

I wrote cubes, but I was referring to the "little sugar chunks" (Zuckerstückchen)--but again, Zuckerhut is itself ungranulated sugar, hence the need for an ax. I don't doubt that it could cut someone badly, or, for that matter, break their foot if dropped.

The context was actually bar fights,

I think getting bottled in the face would be more frightening than being menaced with a sugar cube, but the banlieues can be a rough and inventive place.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:05 PM on February 6

A Yahoo Answers question:
Legal self defence weapon?

is there a useful, legal, easy to get weapon you can have around you for self defence?
(a weapon not to kill, but to defend yourself)

Best answer:

one I learnt from a teacher long time ago.
A sugar cube seems harmless enough but the sugar crystals cut like a razor and the reaction of the sugar leaves a scar
posted by XMLicious at 5:16 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Candy bars as a weapon? Yes – in prison, anything goes. Candy bars are melted down on hot plates and the molten mess thrown into the face of the victim. The chocolate and caramel are extremely hot and harden very quickly, making them painful when they hit and difficult to get off of the skin. This DIY weapon may be primitive, but it’s effective.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:53 PM on February 6

Sugar is banned in prisons in California. My brother melts down tootsie rolls in order to produce anything that requires sugar (he made cinnamon rolls for Christmas using a very elaborately modified hot plate that can steam-bake).

With the genius that required, I'm sure he could find a way to turn a sugar cube into a weapon if he really wanted to. Although he would far rather use it for cupcakes than as a shiv.
posted by guster4lovers at 8:41 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]

I haven't heard of it, but...

The edges of cheap sugar cubes are sharp. I suspect what happens is that something is added to the sugar cube to make it harder although that may not be necessary. The edges can be filed. Voila, a sharp, small object you can use to slash someone's face. Which can easily be tossed, ground down, or dissolved.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:28 AM on February 7

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