During our holiday gathering, sugar was, briefly, a topic of conversation. Not a hot topic, because who really wants to think about what we do to ourselves gastronomically during the season of joy and excess? Nevertheless, it came up during the Sharing of the Brownies and, once the ball was rolling, the forward momentum had to work its way to the end.
“These are sugarless,” I announced, bearing a plate of fat and obviously dark chocolate brownies to the cluster of listless bodies digesting holiday cheer atop stuffed furniture. I held the brownies aloft with the expectation that they would be fallen on with joy and thanksgiving, not to mention scientific discussion. Doesn’t everyone want to cure the common cold AND have a cake and eat it, too?
A few heads turned soundlessly in the direction of the plate I proffered. A few eyebrows were lifted to aid in mental digestion of my seeming oxymoron. Someone who’d already tested the sugar content of some nice wine put themselves on the line and came up with a reasonable clarification of my statement.
“Oh, you mean they have aspartame?”
Well, I am not renowned for light social chatter, but the wine drinker had lost his conversational reserve and exposed his innocence with the question, so I went through that door of conversation with earnest good intentions. A few clear heads wished they could close that barn door, but the horse was already through it. So I zeroed in on the one soul in the room who seemed willing to be saved—or at least to bite—and switched on “save the room if not the world” mode. My eyes clamped on his, as I held out the sugarless visual aid.
“Oh, no. They do not have aspartame. Aspartame is evil. God knows what it does to your body.” I paused because I choke up when I talk about fake sugar. When I was able to continue, I said, “Sugarless actually means ‘without sugar.’ " Everyone knows I am a teacher, but they still find it hard to forgive my habit of dictionary definitions. The silence thickened as I continued. "These were made with half semi-sweet chocolate squares, and half unsweetened chocolate squares. And no sugar.”
There was an uncomfortable silence in the room. Everyone might have been digesting the turkey, I don’t know. The amiable one finally accepted responsibility for the barn door and said, “Wow, that’s nice.”
This slight acknowledgement of my work to save his body and soul (which in my religion is one and the same) threw the door open wide. I dropped the Exhortation and went straight to the Invitation. Years growing up in a Baptist church cemented my personal psychology of saving souls; the roadmap to salvation was ingrained by a childhood of observation. Who better to salvage than indiscretionary family sugar-mongers? Encouraged, I kept the floor. Everyone else was sitting in a food coma, anyway.
“A lot of my friends have food issues. Some have high blood sugar, some have high cholesterol. If we all do some adjusting, sugar is a small thing to give up to save ourselves. And the truth is, a month off sugar weans you off it. Spend a month in Japan, for example--you’ll lose ten pounds AND your craving for Hershey bars. Japanese think American food is horrendously sweet. Which it is."
When I called down the Holy Ghost of National Cultural Straying From the Path, a few eyes glazed over. It often happens in church that way: keep them in the sermon past lunchtime, and you lose them. Know your audience.
So I skipped straight to the Offertory and passed the plate. “Try them,” I whispered. “They have fresh dates and dark chocolate to compensate for false sweetness. What you will taste is pure….taste.”
A few people took a brownie, in the spirit of the season of goodwill, and to move me out of the doorway, and nibbled them. A few, full of turkey and annoyed at having their dietary souls searched at a culinary bacchanalia, declined.
"Um, very nice,” said the amiable one. A few others nodded. No one asked for the recipe. No one swore off sugar or aspartame.
No one was saved that day. But they had come. They had listened. And now, for whatever use they might put the knowledge to in the future: now, they knew:
There is another Way.