My mother took me to a theater workshop in a private home. The show was great and so was the buffet. Miles of bon bons, brownies, raspberry tarts, chocolate chocolate chip cookies and cheese platters. And that was just the inside. A second and even larger table was on the patio. I had to look-see and took a tour of both tables. The portions were bit sized and the hour was prime-time for my Sugar Demon to come out and play. It would have been so easy to cave-in and indulge one of the many excuses and “exceptions” I have conveniently employed all month long. And then I thought about writing it here. I wanted to say I was at the dessert table and I held my ground. So I walked away and had some tea.
I’m not convinced that all this denial, avoidance and self-imposed restraint is really the way to go. Pleasure is an important part of life, and desserts and wine are pleasurable. Sure it feels good-ish to have discipline, but in the long term this is not sustainable and will only make me feel envy towards people who eat desserts without giving it a second thought. Why not have some dessert on occasion and enjoy? Can I do that? Balance it out? Or will I revert back to chocolates and sweets as a daily occurrence?
So it seems we haven’t yet made it through a single week-end without a sip of this or a bite of that. Last night and Sat. night were no exception.
Glad it’s Monday. Woke and re-committed. Meals are not the problem. It’s the socializing that makes it difficult for me.
I started to think about mindfulness techniques that would slow me down – in a good way. Like what if I only drank wines where I knew the label, not just the grape but region, maker and year as well. Or only ate dessert if I knew the person who baked it.
That’s how we roll over here. The numbers get climbing during the day. Guests requesting to bring a date, a friend back home after a long trip, and so on.
We drank. I made guava mousse (because we have buckets of guava puree from fruit off our tree). It was pink and foamy and delightful.
So I waffled a bit last night. Okay. Today’s a new day.
I have a lifelong friend – we were children together as in roller skates, kitten races, tree houses and neighborhood olympics. She’s moved around the world over the years and is in town visiting family. We spent the day together with her three children and later her husband who flew in from Germany just in time to join us for dinner at The Royce Steakhouse.
It’s the sort of place with deep upholstered seating, plush carpets, low hanging lighting and two wood paneled wine tasting rooms flanking the entrance. The men are wearing button down shirts and the women are in skirts. Half the menu is devoted to steak. The wine list is presented with ceremony and left table side. You know good things are coming.
I REALLY wanted a glass of wine to go with dinner. Every table had stemware and decanted bottles. People sipping plum and garnet shades. We ordered a Porterhouse to share and sides: grilled artichokes, mushrooms, sweet potato puree, broccolini and brussel sprouts with duck fat. My friend stopped drinking during her pregnancies and now – still nursing – hasn’t resumed. She doesn’t miss it anymore. Her husband held onto a single glass during dinner.
I so wanted to order a cabernet and sip it with my steak. I didn’t.
I did have a few bites of chocolate-chili sorbet. It was very rich and delicious.
This is the third week of sugar-free.
A friend invited me to lunch downtown. I had to tell her I was “boring” and not eat eating sugar which included pasta, bread, desserts or alcohol. I considered postponing the lunch until February – because then I could indulge. AHA! Faulty thinking I realized. This 30-Day Challenge is not about delayed indulgences. It’s about mindful choices.
Her suggestion was a pasta house, so I checked out the menu for other options. Not much doing. Then I considered just having the “d*mn” pasta and avoiding bread, wine and dessert. And finally – HELLO! – downtown Los Angeles is a food mecca now. Not like 10 years ago. I proposed an alternative and equally amazing restaurant and she readily agreed.
We had several dishes to share including kampachi ceviche, broccolini, fennel salad, trout and jidori devilled eggs (curiously delicious with kimchi topping). My friend had a gin cocktail and I had an iced-tea. We talked about family, our men, food and our respective businesses. (She and her sisters are all small business owners.)
During service the waiter nearly choked on something. He was terribly embarrassed and when the meal was over he presented us with two generous portions of valrhona chocolate puddings topped with whipped cream and chocolate crumbs. On the house. Two spoons.
Challenges at every turn.
I used to have a theory that if it was free it had no calories.
My Sugar-Demon whispered to me that this was a “gift.” It’s bad luck to reject gifts. This is fun and frivolous and to be enjoyed. I agreed.
I had a bite. And tasted the cocoa and the cream and the texture of the toasted crumbs. And it was good. And I thought about whether I would share this piece of news with my man. What would he think if he saw me eating chocolate pudding during this challenge which was my idea? And I took another bite. And it was still good. So rich and satisfying. And I looked into that bowl and thought “geeze that’s a really BIG bowl. How far am I going to go with this?” And I took another bite. Enough.
I put down the spoon. (A small victory right there.)
I pushed the bowl away behind the water class and iced-tea.
We left a generous tip and ran out before our parking meters were up.
I haven’t told my man because I don’t want to discourage his own challenge or disappoint him. But now i have told all of you. Funny how a bite of chocolate pudding can reflect back an aspect of your relationship.
Coming up: To drink to not to drink? Dinner for 8 at the house on Saturday night. Can we throw a dinner party and not drink wine? Can I have little and not over-do it? Stay tuned.
Read in NY Times Magazine front pages about Anne Hathaway giving up drinking for January. She wants to prioritize her health. It might also help her quit smoking. Most smokers I know want a cigarette when they have a drink.
Also another full hour segment on sugar addiction on KPFK yesterday (Inner Visions, January 13).
When I started out this month with the intention of giving sugar a rest, I also intended to add to the top line and try new foods and routines that are nourishing and unfamiliar. To that end I have been less successful but there is still time.
A customer called the other day and told me about a matcha recipe she makes with tumeric called Chartreuse Tea. She whisks together matcha, ginger and tumeric in a tea bowl, then adds a bit of almond milk and honey. The ginger and tumeric can be freshly grated or in powder form. I’ve been experimenting with fresh grated tumeric at home by adding it to vegetables sautees and even as tea with hot water, but hadn’t considered the blend she shared. An anti-inflammatory powerhouse for sure and some new ingredients to add to the top line.
My man came home last night and confessed. Having been offered to compare wines for an upcoming wedding, he agreed to participate only as a sommelier, meaning he would spit it out. He’s been “dry” for almost two weeks. By tasting the wine, but not drinking it, he realized how intoxicating it really is, how sensitive his brain and body are to the aroma, the alcohol, the sugar. “It really is an addictive substance.” One small step for man, one giant step for my man.
We usually drink wine with dinner, and then after dinner too – you know, don’t want to waste it. It goes down unnoticed. And their in lies the problem. I love wine, I love tasting it, smelling it and drinking it with food and in good company. I will most likely always drink wine. But for now I am enjoying not feeling pulled into it. It’s been “easy” because my best foodie and wine gal pal is out of town for a month. I am sure it would be more challenging to abstain if we were spending our usual amount of time together, and if my partner hadn’t also agreed to lay off the sauce for a while.
How are we influenced/ by and influencing those around us? I hope if you are reading this that my experience gives you some encouragement to try baby steps at renewal, commitment and persistence.