The weirdest thing happened to me the other night. Greta just turned twelve last week, and as part of the festivities she requested the very same chocolate cake as she had last year for our No Sugar monthly dessert: my Grandmother’s Sour Milk Devil’s Food Cake with Buttercream Frosting. I’ve always loved this cake; Greta, for her part, seems ready to pledge allegiance to it.
But the night of our family celebration I found I couldn’t finish my piece- it just wasn’t appealing to me right then. I didn’t think anything about it until a few days later, when half the cake still languished in the fridge, and I hauled it out for us to finish off. The girls had no trouble with that assignment, but I… I didn’t like it. Huh? How could this be? I wondered. This was my Grandmother’s cake, after all- one of my very favorites! Why was I behaving as if I were a reluctant kid eating her lima beans?
So, again, I didn’t finish it. In point of fact I went so far as to throw away not only my piece, but the final remaining piece into the trash as well. I’m trying ever so hard not to give my kids an eating disorder (or myself, for that matter) but what that seems to mean is that sometimes I eat sugar when I don’t even want any- just to be “normal.”
What a strange turn of events. Another similar example came when we recently attended a fundraiser at our local library and the inevitable Bake Sale table was there. The first thing my friend Sue said when she saw me was: “Don’t blog about this!!” But I was actually impressed- sure, there were gummy-worm-encrusted cupcakes and a “fruit punch” that somehow was colored both green and orange at the same time, but a small portion of the table was devoted to paper plates of grapes and sliced cheese. And kids were buying them… not that they weren’t buying the cupcake liners full of frosting too, but they were buying them. This, I thought, is progress.
Too bad my kids vote fell on the frosting side of this equation. Ilsa proudly emerged from the fray bearing an oatmeal cookie larger than her outstretched hand (bad enough) and frosted thickly in an unnatural pink (worse yet) before being showered in rainbow sprinkles (seriously?) Then Greta surfaced with what were billed as “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles” or balls of cookie dough dipped in chocolate.
Have I taught them nothing? I wondered. What happened to all of last year? Despite the fact that I usually manage to keep a pretty good lid on the sugar-treats at home, sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one in our house who remembers last year. Then again- after such a long absence, should I be surprised if they value the ability to have a sugary snack just like all their friends all the more?
Greta gave me one of her two “truffles” which I tried. I had that same weird sensation as with the birthday cake- I felt like I was supposed to like it. All my senses were telling me I would- the texture, the smell, the appearance- and yet… I didn’t. I just didn’t. I was utterly confused. It was sickly sweet and left a bad aftertaste lingering on my tongue. Once upon a time I would’ve had a hard time not going back for more of these funky little concoctions, (cookie dough anything? I’m so there!) Now? I was pretending to enjoy it. I was relieved when it was gone.
So, is this weird yet? It’s not just for my family’s benefit that I’m pretending to enjoy things that I once would have loved- it’s also me trying to fool myself into thinking I’m no different than I once was. But I am different. Maybe that means I won’t enjoy the desserts I once looked forward to. And for all my thousands of words and hours writing about the evils of added sugar- I can’t help but admit that I feel ambivalent about that. Does this mean no more homemade Rhubarb Pie? No more afternoons canning my favorite Sour Cherry Jam? No more (and I hesitate even to type these words) Chocolate-Peanut Butter ice cream?? I’m teasing, but I’m also a little serious- picking cherries, making pie from rhubarb just picked in our yard, all these things are rituals which have come to define, in some ways, who I am. Heck, I ate a Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream cone the night before each of my two girls were born (now there’s a selling point for Ben & Jerry’s: It’s cool! It’s delicious! And it may induce labor!)
In his book Sweet Poison David Gillespie described this very phenomenon- that as he and his family shunned sugar they gradually began to lose their taste for it, preferring instead much subtler treats: whole fruit, as well as desserts and snacks made with dextrose. The answer- at least for me- seems to be pretty clear: if I want to enjoy desserts I’m going to have to make them myself, with dextrose. I’m not so sure how the rest of my family is going to feel about that. But you know what they say… you can’t have your cake and eat it too.