The Universal Notebook: Sweet tooth, sweet blood

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I quit smoking 12 years ago when my first grandchild was born. I quit drinking three years ago due to an illness that put me in the hospital for six months. Neither withdrawal was as bad as people make it out to be. I haven’t had the urge to smoke or drink since.

I quit eating sweets just a few months ago, however, and the urge to scoff down a chocolate croissant for breakfast or a hot fudge sundae as a late-night snack has not gone away.

Edgar Allen BeemWho knew you could be addicted to sweets? I guess everyone, right?

Americans (me included) are addicted to sugary, processed foods. That’s why two-thirds of us are overweight and 10 percent of us are diabetic. My A1C (average blood sugar level) finally crossed the 6.5 finish line a year or so ago. I had been pre-diabetic for several years, but I somehow thought that eating an otherwise healthy diet heavy on fish, fruit, and vegetables would protect me from my sweet tooth and sedentary lifestyle.

Not so.

So now I’m taking medication to lower my A1C. And actually, I was doing fairly well at avoiding sweets altogether until I started the medication and my A1C ticked down 0.2 points. I then started rationalizing that it was OK for me to indulge myself occasionally as long as the meds kept my blood sugar under control. 

Initially, I stopped buying the dark chocolate peanut butter cups at Trader Joe’s, quit picking up chocolate croissants at Rosemont Market, and passed up buying a milkshake or a cone at every dairy bar or ice cream stand I passed. I even stopped grabbing a cream horn every time I bought an Italian sandwich at Amato’s. Cream horns have no redeeming social or nutritional value; I love ’em. 

My pledge to sweet moderation (abstention seeming unrealistic) did not extend to my grandchildren. Reviewing my 2021 Amazon purchases, I see several orders of Gummi worms and bears, licorice of all sorts, Jelly Belly jelly beans, and saltwater taffy. Somehow non-chocolate candies seem healthier to me. 

Feeling guilty about tempting the six little ones with sweets, I placed my most recent Grampy order for two one-pound bags of dried tropical fruit: little bits of mango, kiwi, pineapple, papaya, and cantaloupe. Not sure whether it was karma or just online vendor ineptitude, but what the grandkids received for Valentine’s Day was not two pounds of dried fruit, but three pounds of hazelnuts. Still trying to sort that one out.

In the not too distant good ol’ days, I would eat a bowl of ice cream most evenings and my lovely wife could be counted on to bake up some brownies or cookies every few days. I feel virtuous now when I decline such treats, even though the temptations have increased since we started binging on past episodes of “The Great British Bake Off.”

Man, what I wouldn’t give for a nice thick slice of Victoria sponge cake. But I guess that’s out of the question now.

If we have company, I’ll have a little dessert pie or cake just to be sociable, but the only treats I ever request from Carolyn nowadays are little cups of egg custard, sometimes topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Not sure what makes me think custard isn’t a dessert.

To me, custard is scrambled eggs aspiring to become crème brûlée.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.