October 31, 2011 § 2 Comments
“Crap!” I banged the steering wheel with my palm. “Rats!” I was driving back to Vermont after meeting, last week, with one of the sources of great inspiration for this project: David Gillespie.
In fact, everything had gone great. Despite my unpredictable health as of late, I’d managed to sufficiently finagle my schedule (and that of my family) soon after I found out the author of Sweet Poison was going to be in New York City for a few days and had offered to meet up with me.
Of course, getting anywhere from rural Vermont is a bit of a task, but since I wasn’t planning on being in his stomping grounds (Australia) anytime very soon, it seemed like a unique opportunity. So, dressed up and bleary-eyed, I left home at 6:45AM, drove to the suburb of White Plains, hopped on the commuter train and was dumped out in Grand Central in time to meet him for lunch at 1PM. Phew!
In fact, I was early. Really early. And nervous. I started to have “What if…?” thoughts. What if he thinks I’m a moron? What if this lunch will necessitate an involved conversation about GLUT proteins and the role of the hypothalmus? What if my writing is waaaay more interesting than I am in person?
I know, I know. But these are the things one worries about when you get to the restaurant where you’re supposed to be meeting one of your big inspirations and you have a full hour to get anxious. I was just deeply grateful that my car hadn’t failed me, the train hadn’t been late, I hadn’t gotten lost, I didn’t feel nauseous and it wasn’t a bad hair day.
And of course, I needn’t have worried. David Gillespie, I am happy to report, is about as easy-going a guy as you’re going to encounter. He’s reserved, witty, and quietly passionate about his work. Like me, he’s the kind of person who prefers to state his case in print, and let others make of it what they will, and who isn’t especially fond of having to “sell” people on his ideas in person.
In fact, he didn’t start out to make a No Sugar movement. Rather, he says, when folks were curious how he had managed to lose such a tremendous amount of weight, he would reply “I stopped eating sugar.”
“Well, of course, that wasn’t good enough!” Gillespie laughed over lunch. “So I decided to write the book. And then I could tell them to read that!”
It worked so well that Gillespie has sold over 200,000 copies of Sweet Poison in Australia, and many more of the follow-up companion book The Sweet Poison Quit Plan. Gillespie told me that was the motivation for his twenty-some-odd hour flight to America: to find a publisher to distribute these volumes in the U.S. (Currently, purchasing these books in the U.S. requires they be sent from Australia at a premium.)
And the book’s power to convince has worked well. I was amazed to hear that in Gillespie’s children’s school, in addition to making provisions for children with allergies and food sensitivities, they also make provisions for kids who aren’t eating sugar. Let me say that again: they make provisions for the children who aren’t eating sugar. As many as ten different children in a single grade level.
By way of contrast, I related the story of my older daughter’s recent standardized testing, which went on for three days, the by-product of which was a tiny mountain of treat wrappers which she dutifully carried home for me to see. “And this doesn’t include the ice cream every day!” she added, helpfully. I know the teachers are simply rewarding the kids for their hard work and that their intentions are entirely well-meaning. I know not everyone sees candy as a bad thing, but rather a harmless, inexpensive way of bestowing a little innocent affection on children.
However. At what point will we begin to realize our goodwill has run amuck? Your honor, I present Exhibit B: yesterday, at the Farmer’s Market of all places- where we buy much of our organic produce and hormone-free meat- there was candy bloody everywhere in anticipation of impending Halloween festivities. At this point, despite telling myself everyone’s intentions were kind, I was starting to get a little peeved. “What, do they not think they’ll be getting enough candy tomorrow?” I muttered. “Is an entire pillow-case-full not enough??” After demurring the bowl of cheap treats that was proffered, at nearly every single table, one fellow held out to us a bowl of brightly colored hot peppers, causing us to double-take. He laughed and assured us that the next table had candy.
“Yes,” I said, grimly. “There’s always candy!”
Lucky for Gillespie (who is father to six children, all of whom are subsisting un-deprived on No Sugar) they don’t have Halloween in Australia. They also don’t have High Fructose Corn Syrup. But they do have all the same sugar-related health problems as Americans (diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc.), which surely negates the argument that HFCS is any worse than plain old familiar sugar.
I learned this, and so many other interesting things at our lunch. I learned that balsamic vinegar isn’t really vinegar and is fortified with sugar. I learned that Crisco was invented in 1911. I learned that Gillespie’s next two books will detail what he feels is the other great dietary scourge of our time: seed oils. (Canola, vegetable, corn, hydrogenated oils etc.) According to Gillespie, these are even harder to ferret out than sugar, and are the other piece of our health puzzle, namely: cancer. Whoa.
I learned that Gillespie and I read all the same books and that his first book was tentatively titled “Raisin Hell” because somebody, somewhere, got confused and thought the book was about the dangers of “Fruit Toast.” (Get it? Fructose? Ha ha!!)
And I thoroughly enjoyed having lunch with perhaps one of the only people on the planet who would nod knowingly when I blurt out “And what’s the deal with agave!?!”
So why was I so annoyed on the drive home? I realized, way-belatedly, that I had completely forgotten the bloggers code: Always. Take. Pictures. Did I take a picture of me and him? Did I take a picture of what we ate? The restaurant? The bum outside? Anything??? Nope. You know, sometimes it’s a wonder I manage to leave the house with my head still attached. Oh well.
But I know what you’re wondering: where do two No Sugar proponents eat for lunch in New York City? We ate at Les Halles (fittingly, the restaurant of another of my favorite writers, Anthony Bourdain.) We had some very nice steaks and french fries. And a side salad… with no dressing.
June 25, 2011 § 7 Comments
As it turns out, there are several things that a strict diet of no added sugar cannot guarantee. It won’t guarantee you won’t get poison ivy on your neck. It won’t guarantee you won’t suffer a wracking coal miner’s cough so alarming that all activity in public places ceases until it subsides. And it won’t guarantee you won’t have to put down your nineteen year old kitty cat.
That’s been my week, how about you? As far as I can tell, we’ve had a good week and a half of summer vacation, and already it’s kicking our butts. My eleven year old has a bruise the size of a pear and the color of an eggplant on her upper thigh and a nasty looking puffy ankle from some Lord-of-the-Flies-style shenanigans at a friend’s potluck the other night, and my six year old came home from that same event with an inexplicably puffy eye and, of course, more bug bites to add to our rather sophisticated collection. After a nice long hike another night we returned home to find a tick firmly attached to Greta’s ear, as well as a generous sprinkling of the aforementioned poison ivy- or is it poison parsnip?- across my entire neck. I look so festive that the fellow who mows our lawn actually took a step back when he noticed it.
Plus it’s been raining like the dickens, and this morning I made the incredibly difficult decision to put down our kitty who’s been with me since my last year of college. Yes- basically half my life has been spent in the company of this furry, orange little guy. Right now I’m waiting for the rain to stop so I can resume digging the hole in the backyard for him. Yeah, it’s been way too eventful around here.
With so many things going on- trips to the vet, running out of band-aids and topical Benadryl- it’s hard to focus on something like a Year of No Sugar. Suddenly, it all seems so… random. Pointless. In my sadness and anxiety about our cat, I’ve had virtually no appetite and absolutely no urge to cook. This week has been the week of using up all our convenience meals- that one frozen bagged pasta we can have, Annie’s mac and cheese, bagels.
At least I can report that I didn’t turn up at that potluck empty handed: I brought my dextrose Coconut Cake, courtesy Sweet Poison author David Gillespie’s recipe, which he developed with his wife Lizzie, who I fervently hope is writing a cookbook as we speak. This is the second time I’ve made this cake and I must say it can complete with any other coconut cake… It’s delicious. The kids, who had banded together and were roaming the drippy lawn and crowded living room like packs of wild dingos, discovered the cake about twenty minutes after I set it on the buffet and I’m delighted to say it disappeared forthwith. I actually had to jump in and hurriedly snag some to make sure my kids got dessert- since of course they wouldn’t be having any other sweet that might make an appearance at the table.
It’s hard at a potluck to know what items will truly be sucrose-free, heck, usually I can’t even tell what half the dishes are. So we just go with our instincts: avoiding all dressings, pita and sandwich breads, any deli meats, meat cooked with barbecue sauce, and so on. We ended up getting by just fine, getting our fill with fruit salad, olives, french bread and a lovely pasta salad made with garlic scapes by our hostess Eva that I had no choice but to go back for seconds of.
So, life is good. Life goes on. Someday, this wretched cough will truly subside. Someday, I won’t be so sad about losing my kitty. The bug bites will heal and maybe we’ll even stop picking at the scabs (no promises, though.) The chickens will keep laying eggs and the tomato plants will get bigger. If you’ll pardon me though, it has stopped raining now, so I better go finish digging that hole.