Ah, sugar. So sweet, so simple, so toxic? I recently read a New York Times piece by Gary Taubes, outlining the dangers of this sought-after, addictive, weight-inducing substance.
I don’t drink soda, diet or otherwise. I offer no-sugar-added juice for my son, locally produced when at all available. I only buy fairly traded, organic chocolate. Upon learning about human rights violations in cane fields and the genetic modification of sugar beets, I had moved to purchasing only organic, fairly traded sugar. Enjoying a sweet morsel containing ethically produced sugar, made the treat even sweeter. I have a limited-sugar policy in my kitchen due to the health concerns of some of my housemates, usually reducing the amount of sugar in all recipes calling for the substance, at least by one-quarter. I was thinking I was doing pretty well and by national standards I’m sure I was. The New York Times article, however, is moving me closer to becoming anti-sugar.
Draw your own conclusions about the article. My personal response is to start reshaping my tastes, my concept of sweetness, to align more closely with how my people evolved through time. We each originated somewhere. My genes concentrated in northern Europe, the Scandinavian and UK countries. I don’t know where those Peoples migrated from, but it had been a long time since inhabiting the warmer, tropical areas where human life may have originated. That said, sugar cane didn’t grow in the colder north. My ancestors drew sweet sap from certain trees and bees produced honey from the flowers of a short growing season. People had to work hard to sweeten their food. Sweets were cherished, relished delicacies savored during the holidays of the long, frozen winters. These treats would give some joy and hope that the snow & ice would melt again into summer. Sugar as hope. Sweetness as joy.
As I’ve worked to limit the sugar I use, my palette has improved. I can taste the sweet molasses of the sourdough bread crust. Winter kale, surviving cold temperatures, has a sweetness when braised with olive oil and garlic. Certain lettuces are bitter to contrast with those that are sweet like sunshine. The raisins in my otherwise non-sweetened granola, explode with sugars. Going forward, I’ll be exploring locally produced honey as a sweetener, used very sparingly, in baked items and desserts. I’ve looked into processed Stevia and may use that on occasion but want to have more local control over what I use for sweetening foods. Some will add this topic to my ever-expanding collection of soap boxes. Perhaps. Maybe I will be able to silence their criticism with treats that are just sweet enough to busy their tongues in identifying and relishing all the flavors put forth…not just sugar.