A Year Of No Sugar: Post 52

June 3, 2011 § 8 Comments

I sat in my doctor’s white-box office in Rutland yesterday morning, ready to hear the diagnosis: I was anemic.

Or: I had thyroid disease.

Or: I had lyme disease.

I wasn’t entirely ready to hear a diagnosis of diabetes, another ailment which has been suggested to me, in large part because the sheer irony of that would’ve been unbearable. (Headline: “Woman Stops Eating Sugar: Instantly Becomes Diabetic!”) After more than two months, I felt it was at last time to discover the truth behind why I have been having recurring exhaustion attacks which shut me down for between one and three days at a time and render me so helpless that I lack the ability to do even the most basic, low energy activities: reading, knitting, smiling. Basically I stare vacantly into space, feeling like Oscar the Grouch on valium, and feeling annoyed at all that isn’t getting done. Wait- scratch that. I feel too crappy to care about all that isn’t getting done; I feel annoyed because sitting on the couch feeling crappy isn’t living.

But now was the moment of truth. Maybe I’d even find out the reason why virtually every time I’ve been to the doctor in the last fourteen or so years that we’ve lived here I’ve complained of “fatigue” of one sort or another, as he pointed out when I originally went in two weeks ago.

So I was prepared. What I wasn’t prepared for was for him to come in and tell me how ridiculously healthy I apparently am. He went through all the results with me line by line: white blood cells, urine sample, Lyme titer, the good cholesterol, the bad cholesterol, the ugly cholesterol… all the while using words like “excellent,” “exactly what we’d like to see,” and “very terrific.” (I swear, at one point he really did say: “Very terrific.” Mrs. Boersma, my twelfth-grade English teacher, clearly has never met my doctor.) He even said I drink enough water! I mean, who drinks enough water? Nobody!

I like my doctor, incidentally: he doesn’t rush me. He answers all my questions. He doesn’t tell me I’m crazy. And, every single visit he manages to refer to me as “young” at one point or another, a fact which endears him to me increasingly with each passing year.

But I don’t honestly know whether to be happy or sad at this news. I mean, where does it leave me? The last, most recent episode was so profound that I found myself morbidly depressed, thinking “I can’t go on like this.” Lying around and sleeping much of the day away on the living room couch might sound wonderful to many in our sleep-deprived, overworked society, but it’s not. Sleeping all the time, only to wake up wanting to sleep more isn’t luxurious or relaxing… it just feels like death.

So on that cheery and completely unmelodramatic note I will mention the fact that since last weekend I have fully recovered once again. With my regained energy I’ve been back to my old tricks, baking homemade hamburger rolls, making no-sugar waffles for breakfast and homemade mayo for the kid’s school-lunch tuna fish. I ‘m probably just a little too excited about opening the Andre-the-Giant-sized container of dextrose which arrived the other day, to use the sweetening ingredient in some of David Gillespie’s no-fructose dessert recipes. Strawberry Ricotta Cheesecake here we come! Ah, enthusiasm, how I missed you.

After my appointment and a few requisite Rutland-area errands I decided to celebrate my straight-A blood-work report-card by enjoying a very special treat: lunch at my favorite new restaurant, “Roots,” which specializes in local-fresh-organic food. (If you live around here, right about now you are saying “In Rutland?” Yes. You can have a lunch in Rutland that does not offer you “chips with that” or free refills.)

My beef, cabbage and rice dish arrived and was the perfect accompaniment to the blustery, brisk day outside, the kind of early June day before summer has completely made up its mind whether to come or not.

I sighed with contentment. I cracked open a new knitting magazine. I took a bite of cabbage and rice.

Oh my. That is so good.

Hmmm. So, there’s nothing “wrong” with me, I thought. Well, things could be worse.

A Year Of No Sugar: Post 38

April 8, 2011 § 2 Comments

If I learn anything at all this year, it will be the fact that sugar has a way of popping up when you least expect it. Take yesterday, for instance.

After a morning of errands my husband Steve and I were looking forward to visiting one of our very favorite local restaurants: Steininger’s in Salem, New York. Steininger’s is one of those unassuming local places you can drive by a thousand times before you think to stop in, but once you do, you become a devoted fan for life.

Walking in, you feel like you’ve perhaps entered a cozy lodge in the Austrian alps. The walls are covered with chintz and the air smells like a wonderful soup of the day, perhaps tomato parmesan or cream of mushroom. Real table cloths, fresh flowers, and paintings of European markets make you feel that you’re not in Kansas anymore. The back wall houses an impressive display of house-made chocolates: glass cabinets for the trays of truffles and caramels, and a heavy wooden cabinet showcases holiday chocolates in colored cellophane, all displayed with that uniquely European enthusiasm for celebrating with style.

Easter was in full bloom at Steininger’s yesterday, with delicate chocolate eggs in baskets wrapped in seven different colors of decorative foil, along with a polite color-decoder sign to denote whether the dark green foil indicated a peanut-butter-chocolate egg or a marzipan one. Chocolate Easter bunnies were hard at work hauling chocolate baskets and chocolate wheelbarrows, (presumably back and forth from the chocolate mines at which they were enslaved by an exploitative chocolate overlord.) Needless to say, it was an unapologetic riot of sugar.

The problem is, I love this stuff. I love holidays, I love special celebrations, I love special food and treats. I love making my kids follow rhyming clues all around the house to find their Easter baskets like a buried treasure at the end- and I’ll stay up till one AM to do it too. I don’t mind.

I’ve been trying to convince myself that we can simply get through Easter with a special note to the Easter bunny explaining our situation, to which he (or she) will respond with a fantastic basket of treats that do not involve sugar. (In fact, word has it that the Easter bunny, who has ESP you know, is already hard at work on this problem, laying in Easter-themed videos and tiny stuffed animals in place of jellybeans and Cadbury eggs.)

But the display was so great, so totally up my alley, that I had to look away. Just not this year, I thought. And it’s only one year, I thought. Right?

I decided to focus instead on Steininger’s six page menu, at least half of which is desserts. I knew that even if I wasn’t having creams puffs or pastry, I’d still get to have a delicious bratwurst with sauerkraut, mustard and potatoes. If anyone knows how to make a filling, satisfying meal, after all, it’s the Germans.

Do I even need to tell you the next part? Or have we sung this song enough times by now? As always, I asked about the sugar content: of the sausages, the bread, the delicious smelling soup… and our waitress said yes, yes and … yes. All contained amounts, if sometimes only trace amounts, of sugar. I appreciated her honesty, her willingness to traipse back and forth from the kitchen to check multiple times- it would have been just as easy for her to appease me with an assurance that she wasn’t entirely sure of.

For that matter, I’m sure I have been served restaurant food this year that has contained sugar simply because the waitstaff can’t or won’t check further, (ie: there’s no sugar in the soup, just chicken broth! But did anyone check the broth…?) But the rule I’ve decided to stick by is I have to ask. If they say there is no sugar, I trust them. If they say there is sugar, I have to find something else- “trace” amounts or no.

So no sausages for me, and no soup. No bread either, which meant all sandwiches were off the table. All that remained was a vegetarian chef salad with fruit and nuts, and only if I dressed it with oil and vinegar, since the salad dressings all contained sugar too. Well, why was I so surprised? This has certainly happened enough times by now for me to anticipate. It’s just I’d been starting to assume that as long as I stayed away from “fast” or “chain” food it would be relatively easy to avoid sugar- this, however, blew that theory out of the water. Note to self: even “slow” food contains added sugar in strange and unusual places.

That being said, we are talking about homemade food, and trace amounts of sugar (well, except for the cream puffs). I’m not wagging my finger at wonderful places like Steininger’s, just abiding by my own rules, which are admittedly overly strict because of the point I’m trying to make. What’s that point again? Oh yeah… eating without added sugar is way way way waaaaaaaaay harder than we think.

Anyway the salad was… actually delicious! You could’ve knocked me over with a feather. Who knew cheese, fruit and greens could satisfyingly take the place of hot soup on a chilly spring day? I mean, besides the Easter bunny.

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