A Year Of No Sugar: Post 59

July 7, 2011 § 5 Comments

I almost can’t believe it: we’re half-way through.

Today is the seventh day of July, so in fact we’re officially past the six-month mark. After an entire June of clammy wetness it’s finally starting to look more like summer here in Vermont… the marble-quarry swimming hole was full of people when I drove by this afternoon. Also, I hear strawberry season is practically over, (didn’t it just start?) so I hurried out and bought two quarts… never mind going picking.

Of course, summer in Vermont has truly arrived just in time for us to go away: we’re preparing for a trip. A big trip. We leave Sunday for two weeks in Italy.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re not thinking: “Gee, will Eve ‘s family visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa? The Vatican? The Coliseum?” I know you’re not thinking that because that’s not what everyone here has been asking me. What everyone here has been asking me is: “Oo! What are you going to do about the Sugar Project?”

Yeeeaaaaah. Good question. It’s one to which I have given much thought, but have yet to receive any brilliant revelations about. My circular thought pattern runs something like this: the Italians are serious about their food, in particular fresh, homemade food- this will be extremely helpful. Also very helpful will be the fact that the Italians aren’t too big on desserts- gelato and tiramisu notwithstanding. The first time our family went to Italy two years ago I recall more than one instance in restaurants when we had to ask if, in fact, there was any dessert to be had. It was often an afterthought, as in: “Oh! Yeah- we have dessert… Would you like dessert?”

In one of the more local establishments we ordered two different desserts and both struck my American palate as… not very good. Instead they were creamy and cake-y and lemon-y and almond-y. They were not what I would call sweet. I didn’t care for them very much- at that point I was still looking for that taste explosion at the end of a good meal to signify it’s end, like fireworks at the end of the Fourth of July festivities. I mean, you just can’t go home till the grand finale practically blows your eardrums out- or taste buds off as the case may be. We Americans are not big on subtlety.

Therefore, by comparison, we should be in good shape, right? No one will be tempting us with deep-fried Twinkies or Death-by-Chocolate Sundays… However. Gelato is good. Really, really good. Did you know that you can request “crema” on top and they will put a perfect little dollop of whipped-cream on top? Did you know it will likely be between eighty and ninety degrees our entire first week? Do you think, at the tourist-thronged landmarks we are sure to be visiting, we’re going to be encountering gelato every-blinking-where we go?

So last night we had a babysitter and Steve and I hashed it out over dinner.

My husband started out the bargaining. “How about one dessert per day?” he helpfully suggested. I about spit out my drink. I pointed out that, on a fourteen day trip, this would result in us having more desserts in the month of July than we would have in the entirety of 2011.

“How about one dessert for the whole trip- our July dessert?” I countered. The look of abject horror on his face was impressive.

“Now, we’re not going half-way around the world to torture our children with wonderful ice cream they can’t have.” Oo! The “torturing your children” card- well played!

“How about one dessert per week?” I re-countered. As you can imagine, this went on for some time.

Other ideas were floated: what about family voting on a case-by-case basis? Although this appealed to my democratic side, I’m reasonably confident that my otherwise very-supportive family, when faced with an Italian gelato stand in all its glory, would nonetheless vote the No Sugar Project out every time- possibly before breakfast.

By the end of our meal we seemed to have reached some sort of consensus: we will, of course, have our July dessert in Italy. Very likely, we’ll end up having more than one dessert during the course of our trip. Whatever we have will be rare and special. So, basically, we’re going to wing it.

On the whole, Italians seem to have gotten the sweets question right… enjoying little wonderful golf-ball-sized scoops of gelato as a special treat is a lesson we “more-is-more” Americans would do well to learn.

Then again, I’ve been to Italy four times in my life, and every time I go I’m dismayed to see that the gelato scoops have gotten a little bit bigger. Ever so gradually, they’re becoming more American.

A Year of No Sugar: Post 30

March 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Mayo Clinic is a humbling place.Whenever I think I’m having a tough time here because I’m having trouble finding something to eat- I can’t eat the dinner rolls, or the bacon, or the tortillas, or the entire bloody complimentary breakfast bar- I remind myself of this very important fact: here at Mayo I am surrounded by folks who have troubles worlds away from mine.

Not to mention that my No Sugar regime is self-imposed. Nonetheless, I take it pretty seriously- ask any waitress who’s had to run to the kitchen three times to ask about ingredients for me. In fact, I’ve gotten to the point where I dread the asking, because I fear I’m going to get “The Look.” “The Look” is that mixture of dismay and confusion which regularly appears on the waitress, cashier, or cafeteria line lady’s face when I ask if the penne with red peppers and broccoli has sugar in it.

Sugar in it?” they always say, as if they perhaps didn’t hear me correctly.

That being said, I probably couldn’t have found a place on earth as willing to accommodate my ingredient queries as they are here. Because of the clinic, they are used to fielding just about every question you can ask about their foods… so many folks here have restrictions, special diets or upcoming test requirements. But even the diabetics aren’t asking quite the same question that I’m asking. Sometimes I preface it by saying “I have a little bit of a weird question…”

Now, on Saturdays and Sundays Mayo Clinic is closed, and so are, consequently, a whole lot of the restaurants. What stays open is just the kind of food I totally can’t eat… sub chains and coffee shops. In the sub shop the meats are probably cooked with glazes and other additives which are likely to include sugar, and the bread usually has it too; coffee shops are basically one big dessert.

On Saturday night I took my Dad to the sub chain inside our hotel. While he ordered his sandwich I noticed that they had a “no carb” option of wrapping your ingredients inside a large lettuce leaf rather than their bread (which- I checked- had sugar.) Rather than enter into a ten-hour discussion of the ingredients of the various cold cuts, I ordered the veggie sub with the no carb option… basically a vegetable bonanza, with a slice of cheese thrown in there for good measure. I couldn’t very well add mayonnaise because that has sugar (oh yes!) so I slathered on some mustard and dug into a very crunchy meal.

The next day was equally tricky. After a good breakfast of plain oatmeal and berries at a nearby hotel I thought I was full enough to get through till an early dinner. Not so much. I really should realize this about my metabolism by now, but somehow I still manage to convince myself that maybe I don’t really need to eat all three meals if it isn’t entirely convenient. Instead, I am like a wind-up toy that stops working when its short little energy source runs out.

So there I was, mid-afternoon, dinner still hours away, and not a thing in sight to eat. As usual when I miss a meal, I began to feel slightly ill, and then desperate. The Larabar from my suitcase had helped, but not enough. I couldn’t face another vegetable sandwich wrapped in lettuce, but I had an idea. I went to the counter at the sub shop and asked if I could just order some cheese.

Just cheese?” the twenty-something man behind the counter asked. He checked with the sandwich makers behind him, “We can do just cheese, right?”

No one could think of any reason not to sell me some cheese. “Hey- there’s no reason why we can’t!” he said brightly, and he rang it up. The cheese came to 75 cents. After checking the ingredients I also added a bag of potato chips and received my tiny little package of cheese from the pick-up counter.

Back in my room I was sorry to see they had only given me two small pieces- should’ve asked for two or three servings worth. Oh well- paired with the banana I had stolen from the largely inedible (for me) breakfast bar, and the chips it still made a very serviceable lunch.

It was all there: I had some carbohydrates, some salt, some fat and some fructose wrapped in fiber and sprinkled with micronutrients. I was happy with my little improvised meal and even happier that it put a stop to the gnawing in my belly.

And honestly, it was waaaaay better than a lettuce and mustard sandwich.

A Year of No Sugar: Post 28

March 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

I had Walleye for lunch and dinner yesterday- a first for me. Apparently Walleye is very big out here in Minnesota.

But wait, you say, Minnesota? What happened to Philly? What, for that matter, happened to Vermont? Well, life moves pretty fast out here in No-Sugar Land…

So yes, Minnesota. Turns out my Dad’s back problems have reached epic proportions and it’s time for the experts to be superseded by the experts. So he and I have come to Mayo Clinic. I have been told that the Mayo Clinic employs 56,000 people in the city of Rochester, Minnesota, which leaves me speechless. (remember: I live in a thriving Vermont metropolis of around 1,000 people.)

And this also, of course, means more travel: the No Sugar Lifestyle’s no-so-best-friend. But I’m slightly better prepared this time: for one thing I had the foresight to leave the kids at home, with my husband. I have a much easier time with the concept of going hungry myself, than I do with imposing hunger on my children- especially when actual, viable food is staring them right in the face.

Also very helpful is the box of Kashi cereal I packed in my suitcase. One of the biggest lessons I learned on our trip to Philadelphia last week was that the hardest meal of the day for no-sugar is breakfast… hands down. Just take a look at it and you’ll see what I mean: there’s cereal (added sugar), toast or bagels (added sugar), juice (is sugar), waffles (added sugar, and that’s even before the syrup), muffins and danishes (oh, come on!),… Pretty much black coffee and eggs without toast and without bacon are what you get left with. Ew.

Which leads me to a confession to make on this account. Last week on our PA. trip the breakfast situation got so dire that I had to enact the “Philadelphia Breakfast Exemption” which read as follows: Don’t ask about the bread. Just don’t.

Evidently our hotel has never heard of the “complimentary breakfast” phenomenon that is sweeping the rest of the western world, so we ate almost every day at a small diner around the corner that felt very “retro”… two formica u-shaped counters were lined with swiveling chrome stools. Honestly, for the first time in our project I was too intimidated to ask about the sugar content of the menu items… I’m not sure if it was the Russian waitress with three stars tattooed behind her right ear, the two local guys who came in every morning and ordered coke with their French Toast, or the fact that there would simply be nothing left for us to eat but eggs with eggs and eggs on the side, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Instead, we stuck to the things we knew were safe: bland unsweetened oatmeal, grapefruit, and of course eggs. Okay, we had whole wheat toast and we had bagels. Judging by my experience at sugar-hunting to date, I’d say there was a really, really good chance there was some amount of sugar in those bread products. Which was why the “Philadelphia Breakfast Exemption” was key to our sanity. I was determined, however, not to let it happen again.

Having already learned my lesson the hard way, this week I felt prepared. I proudly smuggled my cereal into the complimentary breakfast bar this morning, brazenly making use of their styrofoam bowls, plastic spoons and paper napkins (evidently our hotel has never heard of the “catastrophic environmental meltdown” that’s sweeping the rest of the western world) as well as a heap of raisins which were originally betrothed to some instant sugar-containing oatmeal, before being abducted and eloping with 7 Whole Grain Nuggets at the last minute.

So I’m guilty of a shotgun wedding, I’m afraid. Well, at least they didn’t end up with the Walleye.

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