January 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
You know, if I hadn’t been there myself, I would’ve said it wasn’t possible. But I am astounded to report that our now-six-year-old Ilsa had a lovely family birthday party Tuesday night, complete with presents, candles, her requested birthday meal, and a special dessert… which we really did do (drumroll please…) without sugar. YES!
Even better is the fact that she had no idea anything was afoot in the dessert department- which makes me SO glad. The last thing I want is to have my kids growing up feeling warped and deprived because of their crazy-ass mother’s hair-brained projects. Sure a “Year Without Sugar” means one thing to you and me- but to a six-year old? It might as well be forever.
On the other hand, it might as well be three seconds too. That’s the plus side- 99 percent of the time Ilsa forgets about the project entirely: she still asks for dessert regularly and tells me about eating cupcakes at school with an innocence that I find utterly charming. This morning we had oatmeal for breakfast, which I jazzed up by adding some lovely cut strawberries and blueberries. I was pretty impressed with myself, but she was not. After a few bites she said to me, “I wish we could have some maple syrup or something on this…” she thought for a moment, “But… we can’t? Because of the sugar…?” “Yes,” I said gently.
“But it’s not forever,” I added hopefully.
Now, promptly after this conversation I ‘m am fairly confident she went off to school and had her usual second breakfast of Frosted Flakes, (more about that in an upcoming post) so don’t fret too overly much on her behalf.
Meanwhile Greta, our ten year old, has a much more fully-developed consciousness about what it is we’re trying to do here and how she feels about all of it. Trouble is, that opinion varies from moment to moment. One minute she’s shocked, simply shocked that I am serving a frozen pizza to our family that has (gasp!) evaporated cane juice listed as the ninety-seventh ingredient… the next she’s eating Skittles at All School Meeting, or sneaking peppermints from the jar near a store cash register.
Hey- I’m no ogre. When Greta got that handful of Skittles, she reluctantly came over and asked me if she could eat them. She had been having an exceptionally hard day at school and a well-meaning soul had offered them in an attempt to cheer her up. I told her truthfully that I was going to leave it up to her- at which point she departed with lightning speed, presumably in case I decided to change my mind on that pronouncement.
I don’t think I’m going to though. We’re doing this project as a family, and for the most part the food of the family comes through one conduit: me. I do the vast majority of the menu planning, shopping and cooking in our house, not to mention lunch packing, so consequently the vast majority of what the kids eat is being affected by this experiment. In other words, while I am strict and very serious about sugar and it’s myriad faces, and following our rules to the fullest extent possible- am I going to be the Sugar Nazi? No. After all, this experiment is in part about teaching our children to make good, informed, conscious choices about what they put into their bodies. We have set up the guidelines, and already we’ve all learned a lot we didn’t know before about our food; but only they can figure out what this project specifically means for them.
Which for some reason makes a small victory like the other night’s birthday dessert all the more significant to me. After our traditional birthday meal of english muffin pizzas (after finding alternative, no-sugar brands of English Muffins and marinara sauce, or course) paired with some spinach, we stuck a candle in what I fervently hoped would be a delicious grand-finale… banana splits: bananas halved, banana ice cream (Steve’s famous single-ingredient recipe: frozen bananas he runs through the Champion juicer), topped with strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar (but omitting the called-for sugar), whipped cream (ditto) and a fresh cherry on top. PS- no added sugar.
It looked pretty decadent, but I was petrified. What if it was awful? What if it tasted like cardboard? I took a bite. Hey- wow! Happily, the girls were exclaiming as they ate- the banana ice cream was the key- perfect and sweet all on it’s own, creamy like the best gelato… and the cream and strawberries made it just the right amount more colorful and complex. I sighed a HUGE sigh of relief… and I began to think we might just make it through this project after all.
January 4, 2011 § 1 Comment
It’s pretty amazing the number of times sugar can come up in a day. Today I got blind sided when I least expected it: at school I was asked to buy Girl Scouts cookies by the same friend who asks me every year. Ordinarily I would’ve responded with a sizable order, heavy on the Tagalongs and Thin Mints, please. Hey- it’s a good cause! Instead, I surprised my friend- and me too, really- by declining.
Now normally I’m a big supporter of, well, just about everything. That’s because I remember being a kid and selling things, and how hard it was: flower seeds and greeting cards and glass jars of popcorn and Florida oranges.. you name it. Sometimes it was just to benefit the very deserving Eve Would Like to Have Some Cash Fund, but just as often it was for German Club or the Methodist Youth Group’s upcoming trip to Somewhere-or-Other. And then there were those big yellow cartons of M&Ms which benefitted… what? Band I think. Of course those sold themselves: all you had to do was place the big box on top of your books as you walked down the hall and kids would practically throw themselves off the stairway landing to buy a pack or two, scrounging coins and crumpled bills from the bottom of their pockets.
I remember even then feeling like: this is weird. Why is this so easy compared to selling everything else? And maybe, just maybe, there was something a little wrong with selling candy to a captive teenage audience… were they paying with bus money, I wondered? Or lunch money? Another less ethical but more immediate dilemma came in the fact that I was my own best customer and often had to quickly come up with my “cash drawer” shortfall. Whoops!
So today the sugar project has me wondering: how many things do we justify in the name of a good cause, that we ordinarily would object to? How hard would it be to find alternative ways to express our support?
Hmmm. I think… I think I’ll ask my friend about making a donation, instead.
PS- Yesterday for the first time I asked a waitress if there was any sugar in the meal I was ordering. I’ve been toying with all kinds of plausible justifications from “I’m allergic” to “It’s for religious reasons,” but in the end simply asked her if she could check.
“You don’t want it in there?” she asked, without too much interest.