Friday, April 3, 2009

Gluttony and Guilt - My Love Affair With Sugar

As is apparent from earlier posts, I am – and always have been - a sugar fiend. It is known far and wide that my love of sweets far exceeds that of normal humans, that my tolerance for large quantities of sugar-laden pastries, thick layers of gooey buttercream and vast bags of sticky gummi candies rivals that of any wild-eyed eight-year-old. At work, I am the first of my co-workers to be altered if there happen to be treats about, and I can be counted on to spread the word, to rally the troops in search of dessert glory. I am unashamed to say that I possess remarkable abilities in this department: in my five-story office building, I am capable of sniffing out any rogue cookie, tracking down all errant cupcakes, and mercilessly capturing every last slice of pie.

Truth be told, I might owe my whole relationship to my love of sugar. Shortly after we began dating, my now-husband and I went to the grocery store to pick out a dessert to accompany our rental - an action-packed evening of fun. I found myself lamenting that no one in my circle of friends would share Ben and Jerry’s with me due to the fact that I inevitably eat out all the candy chunks and leave only the ice cream remaining.

Weeks passed. One night, as I lounged on his couch reading, I heard him in the kitchen. Hack-hack. Chop-chop-chop. odd hour at which to make a stir-fry…I ignored it and continued with my magazine. Suddenly, to my surprise, he walked into the room bearing a container of my favorite flavor of Ben and Jerry’s. I opened it, only to behold a chunk-filled pint of ice cream beyond my wildest dreams. Amidst the frozen sweetness, I could make out Butterfingers, Snickers and Twix. There were bits of cookie, hunks of brownie and bites of mint. It was all mine, and it was beautiful. He beamed down at me, proud of his handiwork, and announced that he had chopped up seven candy bars and packed them in, creating a two-container chunk-filled, heavenly hodgepodge of dessert from one measly pint. At that moment, looking up at his pleased, impish grin, I knew I could never live without him. I would marry this man.

Shortly thereafter, the two of us began searching for the most delectable cupcake that Los Angeles has to offer. I’m not entirely certain how this mission was instigated, but I believe it had something to do with my utter horror that he was 1) remarkably fit, and sickeningly dedicated to regular hikes, runs, and other shameful displays of healthy living, and 2) not a sugar lover. Sure, he’d have the occasional indulgent bite now and then, but I was mostly left to own devices in the sugar-hoarding department. At first, this worked out nicely – never a good sharer, I was pleased to devour my goodies without question, judgement or fear of interruption and/or retaliation. However, after one too many date-night evenings spent cramming desserts down my throat between kisses, I realized that I had a clear responsibility. Not to cut down on the sweets – crazy talk! No, my destiny was clear: it was up to me to help this man. I must teach him the way of the sugar! He must learn to share my passion! In short - I would show him the love.

Thus began the Great Cupcake Quest of 2007. At this point, the Sex and the City-induced cupcake obsession had spread like wildfire throughout our great, obesity-prone nation. Cupcakeries were popping up on every corner, schlepping glorious confections to wide-eyed grade-schoolers, soccer moms and TV executives alike (trust me, I’ve seen it). Yes, you could scarcely toss a rock without having it land in someone’s frosting. I had my chosen favorite - a mom and pop shop just down the street from work, at which I was known for my demand for the thickest frosting possible. The teenage employees shuddered as the door swung open and in I strut, ready to point out precisely which treats I desired. “No – not that one – the one to the left. No, to the left – left! NO, not that one! Come on, you have eyes - does that LOOK like it has the most frosting?” Note: Dear reader, please know that I am prone to hyperbole, and do not, in fact, make it a habit to abuse pimply bakery workers. However, in the interest of full disclosure, it may have occurred on occasion, but only in a state of seriously low blood sugar.

Given the cupcake mania of the day, it was only natural that our journey begin with that treat. We decided that it was up to us to discover Los Angeles’s best and brightest, and so, one fine Saturday, I proudly introduced my future husband to the simple glories of Cupcake. Whether he was beguiled by my childlike enthusiasm for frosting or simply scared into submission still eludes me, but he took up the quest with great vigor and impressive dedication. Every weekend for months thereafter, we sampled different bakeries, hunting down and selecting our prospective targets throughout the week and happily stuffing ourselves each weekend. We were young, in love, and high on sugar. Anything was possible. After months of sampling, slightly rounder but no worse for wear, we arrived at our verdict – my mom n’ pop shop did indeed boast the best cupcakes in LA. Mission accomplished.

My love of sugar began as a child. My mother tells the story of a two-year-old me, bedecked in all my holiday finery and taken with my brothers to visit Santa Claus in my small-town plaza. As we approached his twinkling, festive shack, I caught sight of the jolly bearded fellow and panicked, dropping my mother’s hand and high-tailing it out of there as fast as my little legs could carry me. Legend has it that my mother called out “Paige – he has candy.” I froze in my tracks, spun around and make a beeline straight for Ole’ Saint Nick. Ah, young love.

My sugar fixation was likely the result of growing up in a mostly sugar-free household. My middle brother has Type 1 diabetes, so desserts at our place were generally low-sugar frozen yogurts with fruit, or “cookies” packed with wheat germ and applesauce. I longed for the Twinkies and Oreos in my friends’ cupboards, and shamelessly gorged myself at sleepovers, unapologetically cleaning their cupboards of desireable treats. How can so much crap fit into such a small person? their mothers wondered. Later I discovered that at least one friend’s mother had the good sense to replace her pricey Oreos with generic Hydrox when she heard I was on my way. I never knew, and frankly, wouldn’t have cared.

Though I’ve spent nearly 30 years loving sugar, I always knew that I would never, could never subject my sweet fetus to my gluttony. My addiction is mine and mine alone, and my unborn child must be spared. As a nonpregnant person in my early 20s, I silently passed judgement on the expectant moms that I witnessed overindulging, dreaming of the day when I would nourish my fetus with saint-like meals of organic kale, whole grains and lean proteins, snacking on juicy, locally-grown, nutrient-packed fruit and hormone-free, low-fat dairy. I would not be one of those women who uses pregnancy as an excuse to pack all manner of filth into their faces! The “eating for two” excuse wouldn’t jibe for me. I would do everything right! I would be the pregnancy SUPERMOM!

In my older and wiser years, I’ve realized something very simple – women simply do the best they can for their babies, and I am certainly not one to judge. Though I’m far from perfect, my love of nutrition – always in horrible conflict with my love of sugar – has won out, and I am proud to say that I have indeed eaten like a saint for 95% of my pregnancy. My favorite indulgence these days is a ripe organic orange, or perhaps a Trader Joe’s organic toaster pastry – a little piece of sweet, crunchy heaven perfect for a late-night snack. For the time being - for my baby - I’ve managed to kick the habit.

Until today. It went something like this: co-worker’s going-away party – hungry pregnant woman – massive tray of pastries. Muffins the size of soccer balls. Scones as big as my face. Willpower withering. Self-control slipping. Gluttony growing.


Sigh. You can't win 'em all.

1 comment:

Shannyn said...

I'm treating myself to Ben & Jerry's this weekend - Happy Easter to me! I used to have a very negative association with the ice cream (long story)... but, thanks to you not so many years ago, I now have very fond memories of it. Who says psychological blocks cannot be overridden by delicious treats and the ladies with whom you enjoy them?! Cheers to high-quality sugar-laden yumminess and beautiful friends all mixed into a pint-sized cup!