A Year Of No Sugar: Post 44

Greta's Cake

Birthday cake is good. I recently discovered it tastes even better when you can’t remember the last time you actually ate cake.

By special request of the birthday girl, the dutch chocolate cake recipe I made for Greta’s eleventh birthday is my grandmother’s, and ends up making an appearance in our house at least once a year. It’s one of those funny old recipes that actually uses Crisco (gasp!) and instructs you to do all sorts of weird things like put baking soda in hot water before adding it to the batter and sour the milk by adding vinegar to it.

I love stuff like that. I love that my grandmother made this cake for my mom, my mom made this cake for me, and now I’m making it for my family. I love the weird instructions that harken back to an age when people thought nothing of taking the time to trace the cake pans with a pencil on wax paper to line the baking pans with. It’s nice too, that it somehow results in a remarkably moist and not-overly sweet cake that everyone seems to love. It is inevitably topped off with my grandmother’s version of buttercream frosting which is essentially a boatload of butter and powdered sugar thrown together with a teeny bit of vanilla. That part is awfully sweet, and every year I find myself wondering (heresy!) what another frosting might be like on my grandmother’s chocolate cake… but I haven’t had the nerve to try it yet.

Of course, you only turn eleven once; not to mention the fact that we only have one dessert a month around here these days, so we really did it up by putting a small ball of vanilla ice cream on top of each slice. I have to admit, in addition to being delicious, the total effect was achingly sweet to my recalibrated taste buds; I felt instantly jittery and got a dramatic sugar-rush to my head that lasted at least half an hour. Oo- yuck.

The next night, we ate the last of the cake- and once again I enjoyed it, but also didn’t. Now a full four months into our Year of No Sugar, I really do feel like a firm taste-shift has occurred, and sweets hold much, much less appeal for me. I enjoy our monthly treat, but now notice that I pay for it: I feel kinda icky. Had it always been so and I just never really noticed?

It wasn’t till later that it occurred to me to do the math: the cake recipe called for two cups of sugar, and the icing called for three cups of powdered sugar… the cake divided into twelve slices, so per serving that would be… holy cow! .41666667 -nearly half a cup of sugar per serving!! And that’s not including the ice cream. Well no wonder I got a headache. It’s a miracle my body didn’t stage a full-scale revolt.

Greta's Concoction

A few days later some friends stopped by on their way home from dinner, and happened to have ice cream in the car for that night’s dessert. My friend Katrina said of course, they would wait till they were home- they certainly wouldn’t make us watch them eat ice cream while we ate our No Sugar “dessert”: a blueberry-and-lemon juice concoction Greta had invented while I made dinner.

Now, I was already proud of Greta’s inventiveness in the pastry department, but then she really surprised me: “You can bring the ice cream up,” she said to our friends, “Really! I don’t mind. I had birthday cake a few days ago. I’m good!”

Well, knock me over with a feather.

4 thoughts on “A Year Of No Sugar: Post 44

  1. Happy birthday, Greta! 😀

    I’ve been meaning to comment for awhile, and I feel bad that it has taken me so long. I ended up here from a comment you made on the Gary Taubes article about the toxicity of sugar — and I’m truly glad you made that comment, because reading your blog has been incredibly fascinating, delightful, and uplifting. It continues to impress me how much insight you are gaining (and sharing!) about this journey that you and your family are taking.

    A few months ago I started on a low-carb journey myself, and I have since come to the conclusion that sugar was poisoning my system (I have had so many long-term conditions that doctors just shrugged at clear up since I cut the sugar) so it’s been a delight to get rid of it — yet at the same time, it makes shopping frustrating as hell once you start looking at all the labels.

    I’ve not yet gone to the extreme that you have, as it seems I can tolerate trace amounts, and it really is difficult to cut completely, as you surely understand! But watching you and your family work so hard and succeed so well is really an inspiration to me. In particular, I love that your kids, despite their reservations, are doing their best to embrace it and find inventive ways to still have fun with it.

    Good luck with the rest of your journey – I may not comment much, as I have always been the ‘lurker’ type, but I just wanted you to know that I am always reading and enjoying immensely the moments you share and the insights that you have.

  2. Cassiel-

    Wow- what a wonderful comment! I will return to re-read it on days when I’m feeling like the No Sugar project is TOO hard and maybe just pointless. When you’re trying to swim upstream against the tide of popular opinion, it can be all too easy to start to wonder: maybe it ISN’T everyone else that’s crazy… maybe it’s just me!

    I really appreciate your thoughts- and your story of greater health after giving up added sugar. Thank you!

  3. Eve,

    I’m delighted to receive such a positive response from you, and it makes me wish I posted sooner!
    Just remember that you’re not the only anti-sugar person out there! Think of yourself as a part of the innovators — in years to come, people will be telling you “wow, we wish we’d listened to you then! How did you figure it out so much sooner than the rest of us?”

    I do understand about the crazy – I live in Japan where carbs are a staple of all meals (rice, noodles) and people always look at me funny when I ask for no rice. I’m learning to just smile and say it’s for my health, and be damned what they think. I’ve already completely cured a debilitating tinnitus problem, and dermatitis that plagued my face and scalp my whole adult life, amongst other things, just by cutting out sugar and processed carbs — I can easily put up with some odd looks when I think about that. 😉

    Keep up the good fight – I’m sure I’m not the only one taking courage and inspiration from the stories of your everyday life. I mean it when I say you and your family are amazing. I’m cheering you all on from over here!

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