Wednesday, May 19, 2010

smack-heady persuasion

In my last life as a childless struggling artist living in Brooklyn, I'd go apartment hunting roughly every four years. I'd walk from room to room, my imagination already planting myself in the space, picturing the walk to the subway, the soapy electric smell of the laundry room, the clicking of kitchen cabinets, the feel of the air while I laid in bed and considered my new dust motes. This was an uplifting experience if the apartment boasted period detail, hardwood floors and was situated on a beautiful block. More often the apartment smelled like mold, had drop-ceilings, fake paneled walls and the only bodega around sold three year-old Bisquick. It would take me days sometimes to rid myself of the feeling that my life had buckled in on itself in an oppressive particle-board heap, even as I knew I hadn't signed a lease, and wouldn't in a jillion years.

I have similar experiences with books and my mind can tumble just as much. I read Little Sugar Addicts just in time to start planning Stella's fourth birthday party for instance. Before I was even through with the introduction, into my malleable, persuadable head wriggled the notion that my children may as well have been smack-heads, that children the industrialized world over are doomed, that little Hamish and Stella and the rest of Earth's shorties can only be pleasant cooperative companions if they are weaned completely off sugar. As if.

I spent a good week and a half not eating sweet treats, begging, demanding and bribing my children to eat more cheese, nuts and turkey and forgo sugar. I showed them photographs of the webs spiders spun after they'd ingested sugar. I grew irritable and headachy all the while, Googling recipes for alternative birthday desserts. I'd crouch to Stella's eye-level and brightly suggest a nice fruit salad. Or maybe baked apples with cheese! What about yogurt? I felt like a heel. But a well-intentioned heel. And unlike her mother, Stella refused to be persuaded from her birthday confection of choice: a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. A Hello Kitty cake, but not just any Hello Kitty cake. Hers must be dressed as Cinderella.

I was at a loss. I wanted to give my daughter the world, but sugar, I learned, is not love. It's crack. And Mommy doesn't want to deal crack to her babies.

One day my own sugar withdrawal got so bad that as I made breakfast (yogurt smoothie for me, bagels for the kids, which is ironic considering their carby-ness) I saw lights. Not the eureka lights of enlightenment but curves of white rick-rack edged with shimmering rainbows floating off to the left, everywhere I looked. I thought I might have had to wake up Bryan to drive the kids to school because I was having trouble seeing. Maybe I was going blind. But then the lights clouded and dimmed and finally abated leaving in their place a low-grade headache and a fatigue that saw me fantasizing about crawling under the covers all day. 

It turned out this was my first ever migraine. Woo forties! The headache itself wasn't so bad. I went about my day, albeit in tears of fatigue, or maybe detoxification. But I couldn't follow through with it. 

For one thing, I finished the Sugar Addicts book and my resolve for a sugar-free household melted like a Kit-Kat left in a mini-van in July. For another, I picked up the book Real Food, which has a section devoted to the nutritional benefits of chocolate. Persuaded once again, I added a scoop of cocoa powder to my morning smoothies. Every day. And I sped to Trader Joe's to pick up some organic dark chocolate bars, because they're healthy. So much for conviction.

In the end I decided that my daughter would have the cake of her dreams, only it would be made out of as much real food as possible: pastured eggs, organic sugar and flour, grass-fed organic butter and milk. I solved the Cinderella dress conundrum (a.k.a. artificial coloring) with a Cinderella candle and a real dress from Target, and Stella was satisfied. She said, "Ooh, Mommy I love my cake. What's the icing made of, hummus?" Which gave me pause about bright white food, and an idea for next year's cake.


kristi said...

oh my gosh. what a lovely cake! what scary photos are those of the spiders on drugs/sugar. wow. i feel like that when i DON'T have coffee. :)

that last picture is priceless.

love the descriptions in this post.


~Ry~ said...

Nice job on the cake! Very impressive!

Amelia Plum said...

that cake is adorable but the last picture of stella is my absolute favorite. that look is priceless. she is so happy. if you're ever doubting your mothering skills just look at this picture. i need you to help me with quick on the go healthy real food and is there a quick way to prepare this stuff because i have no free time and pretty much loathe cooking as it is. so sugar is okay in small doses? xoxo

elise said...

webs are scary huh kristi? like scared straight scary.

love those blackish lips Ry! and the afghan you made.

amelia, thank you. I will look at the picture tomorrow when we are running late to school! I refuse to live without some sugar but it's got to be real. so no soda or processed stuff. easy enough.

here are ten non-cook healthy snacks that won't send you spiraling in sugar free-fall and might make you feel really good:
1. organic beef jerky (trader joe's has a delish one.)
2. hard-cooked eggs (is that really cooking?)
3. cheese sticks or cubes
4. dark chocolate (just a couple squares per snack, and make sure you pair it with protein. jerky! yummo combo.)
5. nuts! make a mix. add some unsweetened coconut flakes if you're into that sort of thing. coconut rules.
6. banana with peanut butter.
7. whole plain organic yogurt mixed with... honey or maple syrup drizzle... peanut butter spoonful... fruit...
8. salami cubes/slices (or other deli meats but try for organic/nitrate-free. difficult in this realm unless you go to whole foods and then it's butt expensive.)
9. cottage cheese or ricotta with fruit
10. can o' tuna (see this handy guide for safe fish:
11. bonus! Okay this is a cooking one but it's relatively painless and the kids can help if you're into that sort of thing. I make a batch of coconut flour biscuits, refrigerate and then foil one or two with a slab of butter to take as a snack.

hope this is helpful! protein power!

Amelia Plum said...

mucho helpful. thank you!

gesbaby said...

Love the cake Elise - and Stella looks so gorgeous and happy there! Have you seen the cookbook "Feeding the Whole Family"
It is a wonderful cookbook of whole foods for parents and children alike. I use it all the time - just made the spinach feta pie last night. You might like it.

Larissa Phillips said...

lovely cake!

elise said...

thank you for the book rec. gesbaby! And for checking in to read and comment.

thanks you too Larissa! hope you're well!