Refined Sugar, inspired by Nigel Latta – part 1

Husband and I ran whilst we were courting.
It was hot.
We loved it.

NB: One of these days I must post Haruki Murakami’s love for running too. I LOVE Murakami’s books. I reckon Joseph Campbell would have / did too. Mythological.

Running was what led my husband to Paleo and to question sugar.

After baby number 2 (we’re up to 3 currently) he wanted to enter events but was finding ‘obtaining a leave pass’ rather tricky, or at least unattractive as they were issued out for 5am or 8pm (when/once sucklings were dormant).

Then he found Mark Sissen.
The 4-5 training runs of at least 1 hour each week TURNED INTO sprint training a couple of times weekdays in a nearby bit of green or steps, and one large run in the weekend.
This, our developing whanau, could manage.
And the 4-8 slices of vogels toast for lunch TURNED INTO hillocks of leafy greens and chunks of meat baked (never grilled) in their or extra, fat.
Gluten was given the boot, lard hollered in, and sugar kicked.
This was about 2 years ago.

A year ago Jeremy emailed me this National Geographic link – Sugar Love (a not so sweet story). In the subject line my husband wrote (read all of this).

I read all of it and then we talked.

I took his point BUT I argued.

Food is nutrition, yet
Food is also
An Experience

I reflected that I receive joy in cooking and baking for my family.
I like(d) satisfying them.
I had built up a library of recipes for sweet occasions.
Was he suggesting I ‘leave them behind’?
Then there was my joy.
The joy of chocolate, of caramel, of custard,
Of cakes of ginger, of banana, of black forest.
Those Ottolenghi (gluten free) meringues.

I felt affronted and a little dejected.

Husband was profound enough too, to recognise, the ancestory of sugar, flowing through my maternal hoses.
My Nana Frances’ Rice Pudding Recipe was one of the first things I shared lovingly on this blog.
My Nana’s stories of trying to bake for her husband in the Hiwis with the oven upon to the driven snow.
Her sponge recipe, which goes with her teacups she left me.
The tastes she shared with my mother who now bakes and beautifies cakes as her profession.
The hours standing on the chair next to Mum breaking eggs, greasing tins, sifting flour, leveling baking powder, licking the bowl, that soothing beating roar of the Kenwood.
What of that?
Would I be the first of 3 generations to surrender that, that way, that ‘habit’?

We stood proud – sugar, white flour and me, we didn’t buckle. I tautoko-ed my Mama and organised Scones and Spongecake, a kitchen-garden event.

I don’t know what really got me in the end.
Perhaps the pregnancy with my son which saw me have digestive (constipation/gas) issues in the first and third trimesters?
It was after the worst episode of 6 days in pain (more horror-story than giving birth – for me) that I came out (the other side) of the experience willing to change dietary rhythms.
For the remainder of gestation and early bubba days gluten, dairy and sugar were retired – to help my arsehole and her ‘colleagues’, to be frank.

New recipe books bought. Blogs read. Breath breathed. Questions questioned.

To put in context I consider myself to be at least an aware sugar consumer.
In fact, perhaps this is the point. Perhaps we’re all getting a little confused about the issue. It reminds me of the GE Free campaign I joined in the 90s. Some wanted NZ GE Free completely, no scientific experimentation with animals etc. Others were saying keep GE in the lab and out of our fields away from our bees…
The point being GET REAL about SUGAR. Stop hiding it in food. Stop lying about what it does to the body. Stop feeding it to kids (as treats) in abundant doses. Stop making sweet food a reward. Stop bribing kids to eat their veges with pudding. Stop teaching kids there is bad food and good food.

There is sometimes food and most times food perhaps. Encourage courage – to try new things, be it kindy, a swing, butterscotch ice-cream or cabbage. Show them how to grow food, make food, give food. BUT I am on a tangent. Stop me it’s 11.20pm and time for sleep…

I read labels. I make food (sauces, curries, casseroles) from scratch. We’re one of those homes to eat plain yogurt rather than ‘fruited’. Ceres rice crackers without sugar. Homemade muesli roasted with maple and oil, sweetened raisins almonds and sunflower seeds. Winter porridge made with maple and de-thawed frozen raspberries and cream (note no brown sugar here). Soda streamed fizzy water spiced up with a squelch of lemon from the neighbour’s overhanging branch…
That National Geographic night husband quiz-ed me and I went through our entire pantry and fridge only finding tomato sauce, jam and best foods mayonnaise to contain sugar.
The fruit juice I add to our vitamin C powder drinks is sweetened with pear juice.
when I eat sugar I eat it and I enjoy it and I possibly do it/did it/will do it, more than other people.

But no-refined-sugar is gaining more and more momentum. See here, (thanks Vox –  I really like you) just discovered in my inbox from June, from husband, whilst searching for the National Geographic article. And thanks Kellie for your happy stream of (gr,df,sf) recipes and telling me about Nigel Latta’s episode about sugar. I must watch this ‘on demand’.
This no sugar thing, is no longer, some hippy thing.

I have felt (in the past) from some friends and family like I am depriving my children (who are 4, 2 and 6 months) of their childhood rights by not offering colour and sugar at their birthday parties.
One year I relented and added some liquorice allsorts to the table and watched as my happy turning 3 year old became vampiric.
When I dug deep in thought I noticed: but ‘my’ little ones are just that, little. Their little bodies and minds and imaginations don’t enjoy the HIGH of sugar. They may like the first taste. They may like the novelty. But watch then. Watch as we see their bodies running and hear their voices become almost frightened with frantic. The creativity the beautiful chaos that is children becomes frenetic and jarring. It’s like the kindy-kid’s meltdown that can happen on a Friday or before bed or dinner. But this meltdown happens in the middle of their daytime special occasion, after their sugar HIT.
Why do I think this would be kind to offer this to my children? Where is the fun in the surge and fall of what is an overload of sugar, an overdose of energy, on an already uplifted age?
Do children really desire lollies in the first place or do they desire ‘special occasion’, something rare, something WE value.
Therefore that ‘special’ can indeed be whatever we VALUE. Perhaps it’s the party itself. The gathering of people. The decorating the house. The ritual. The comfort of the consistency of the novel. Whatever this is. Flowers? Balloons? Guests? Songs? Tablecloths? Bunting? Candles…

On one hand I’m jumping on the reduced-or-no-refined-sugar arc. I had a ball forking homemade bounty bars tonight with 85% chocolate, maple syrup, coconut and coconut oil – blitzed and dipped. Thank you My Darling Lemon Thyme. Last night I hid pureed beetroot in the gf chocolate cake from Amber Rose – as a research project for EB’s 2nd coming up. Thursday I took Raw Cacao Balls to a 2nd birthday with baby lambs (ice cream and lamby) and pony rides. I’m having a good good time.

On the other hand I want to return to an earlier exclamation:
I believe food gives
more than
Food heals
in her
to delight
to surprise
to give
The textures, colours, fragrance, shapes
Food brings
Food nourishes
Sweet, sour, salt, spice
like direction and element
has her purpose
her message
her medicine.
Let us be mindful
be inquiring
remain open
indulgent and extravagant even.
Continue to mix, to fire, to serve, to light, to cut, to wish, to devour
the roundness the pregnancy of cake
oh so much

And maybe we can do all of that without sugar or maybe we can be a little more Taoist and use it with more awareness and honesty?

One comment

  1. Very well written em, I made an awesome “caramel” slice the other day, from Nadia Lims website while making it gained much satisfaction from using “sugar” from natural sources dates, maple how can something taken straight from nature, with little to no processing be bad?
    I went on a cooking course the other week with the wholesome kitchen she made a statement I like, colour and flavour = nutrients ie white sugar versus maple syrup (nb not brown sugar it’s just been sprayed with molasses)

I love reading your comments, kia ora for taking the time to share your thoughts

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