Janet Sheridan: Sweet on sugar
December 30, 2011
With no adults around and no sweets in sight, my friends and I sometimes licked our index fingers, stuck them into the host family's sugar bowl and lapped at the clinging crystals like starving puppies.
Now sugar bowls have followed the Edsel into oblivion, and our favorite flavoring stands accused of sabotaging the nation's health.
We're told sugar is a disguised scoundrel lurking in unlikely places: the sauce we enjoy with spaghetti, the crackers we serve with cheese and the mouthwash with which we gargle.
According to a Department of Agriculture report, the average American consumes between 150 and 170 pounds of sugar annually.
If typical, each year I eat my weight in sugar.
Actually, when it comes to sugar consumption, I exceed typical: I excel.
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I prefer my favorite additive as undiluted as possible: maple syrup, divinity, and Smith Brothers Cough Drops.
I don't consume the sugar packets placed on restaurant tables like my dad once did — trying to get his money's worth after he saw the bill — but only because I fear the appalled reaction of my dining companions.
I linger in front of the candy shelves in grocery stores, mouth watering and fingers twitching. On a good day, I maintain my dignity and proceed down the aisle, resisting the urge to scamper back and fill my cart.
On a bad day: well, I forgive myself and vow to be stronger next time.
My addiction to sweets began with our sugarcoated holiday celebrations. I devoured the hard pastel hearts that read "4-U" and "Be Mine" on Valentine's Day, then began fantasizing about the marshmallow bunnies and chocolate eggs of spring.
One memorable Easter, I helped Mom make sugar cookies decorated with green frosting, coconut grass and jellybean eggs to share with my class. Before school began, I hunkered down on top of the slide with two friends, ate all the cookies and entered the classroom with crumbs festooning my face.
Later, I felt ashamed but not sorry.
Halloween provided popcorn balls, and Thanksgiving offered a choice of pumpkin or pecan pie. Christmas was the Super Bowl of sugar: three weeks of treat-laden parties, everybody's best dessert recipes, and gifts of brownies, fudge and cinnamon rolls in packages decorated with candy canes.
I don't know about you, but I eat all 170 pounds of my sugar allotment during December.
I've always supplemented our sugar-heavy holiday traditions with self-created rituals. A movie wasn't worth watching — even if it featured the gyrating hips of Elvis Presley — unless accompanied by Junior Mints, Necco Wafers and 7-Up.
A road trip wasn't worth taking without licorice whips and Butterfingers; a mountain couldn't be climbed without trail mix loaded with M & M's; and a birthday wasn't worth celebrating without inch-thick caramel icing on my cake.
When I was young, it was commonly believed that sugar caused my cavities, tantrums and outbreaks of acne. But I ignored everybody's advice and pursued my addiction, preferring to blame my inelegances on my neglect of grooming, lack of self-control, and faulty gene pool.
Recently, I read a list of 146 ways sugar harms our health and couldn't sleep for a week.
My sweet tooth could lead to cataracts, obesity, varicose veins and premature aging.
If I don't take a stand against gooey goodies, I could die fat, blind and early with bulging veins and sugar-encrusted lips.
And loved ones will view me in my casket lined with white satin and comment: "My, they did a good job. She looks so natural."