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.
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.