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February : Sweets

It was less than a day into February when I realized this month was going to be more challenging than January. This month, I gave up sweets.


What does that mean, exactly?


Thank you for asking. "Sweets" is a pretty general term, so I'll clarify. This month, I wanted to challenge my behavior and affinity for sweet things. Sweets, treats, desserts, sweeteners. I didn't want to go the whole way and give up all sugar. Giving up all sugar, including natural sugars, seemed almost... cruel. I was more interested in the psychology than the chemistry of this whole thing.


It could be more appropriate to say that I gave up "treats". The idea of a "treat" has been at the forefront of my thinking this month. I tend to look at these little sweet breaks as a treat, as a little departure from the norm. When I felt that urge to "treat myself" by eating something, even if the compulsion wasn't to eat a sweet thing, I tried to resist.


By the way, I would make a terrible scientist. As you can tell, my idea of sweets/treats is rather imprecise. My method of experimentation is too fluid. Expanding the idea of "sweets" to include "treats", which is a close cousin to "snacks", meant that a few other things slid into the abstinence bucket this month.


No kidding.

Yeah. I gave up peanuts. Are you happy?


No, I'm miserable... and hungry.


Me, too.


Explain the peanuts thing.


I gave up peanuts this month because I gave up raisins this month. I am somewhat of a raisin... uh... fiend. Years ago, I decided raisins were a way to satisfy my sweet tooth in a "healthier" way. If I desired a sweet snack, or a piece of candy, I'd sub it out for a handful of raisins. They are sweet (enough) and I love the texture. Raisins have that right amount of soft meets hard that demands a little more time to chew and appreciate... like soft licorice. So, naturally, if I was giving up sweets, I'd have to give up raisins (and their bigger bolder badder uncle... the venerated prune).


Peanuts are the exact same thing... only on the savory side. If I craved carbs or felt hungry, I'd house a handful of peanuts (or three). Man, I love peanuts.


BUT PEANUTS AREN'T SWEET... WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME.


Because they sit next to each other in the cupboard. I realized that the compulsion to stop at the cupboard was driven by the desire for a "treat", be it sweet or savory. And that is the behavior I want to abstain from this month.


I get it... It's just... mean. Any other curveballs?


No, not really. I'm skipping all sweets, desserts and sweeteners. No candy, no chocolate, no pastries, no honey. No donuts. No soda. No ice cream. (This statement reminds me of this scene in Everything is Illuminated.) Some of these things are not common for me (donuts, soda, pastries), and while I don't eat a LOT of candy, I eat sweet things often.


In terms of the straight up sugar spikes, I have the habit of eating something sweet after dinner every night, so every single night I feel the trigger to grab a sweet and every single night I have to resist. I don't regularly eat a big dessert, but I like a hunk of chocolate or something small from the candy basket. (We have a candy basket).


I love candy.


It feels so foolish to say that as a grown man.


Like, as an adult, I should say, "I love 98% cacao dark chocolate," or, "mmmm creme bruleeeeeee" or something like that. I mean, I do like those things, but I also just love candy. To be specific, I specifically love certain sweets in certain seasons. Here's my candy calendar:


Sweethearts

February means hearts. Those little dang sugar bullets with the stupid little words on them... I hate that I love them. There's just nothing in them that is good. But if I have a few, I want to eat the whole bag... and I will. After the Great Sweetheart Scare of 2019, I never thought I'd skip sweetheart season again, but here I am.



Cadbury Mini Eggs.

These candy-coated chocolate Easter treats are such a weakness for me. Talk about a texture! Thank the good Lord above that these have become prohibitively expensive. If there's one thing stronger than my sweet tooth, it's my cheap ass.


I Scream for Summer

If it's hot outside, I want ice cream.


Autumn Mix

I am one of those "crayon-eating psychopaths" that love candy corn and the full autumnal array of Brach's Mellowcreme empire. Big fan of the Autumn Mix. Give me the pumpkins. I'll even dally in some maple flavoring... but get away from me with everything else. No mint, no berries, nothing blue... go home. I'm here for the warm colors and faux-fall flavors only. I can't explain this addiction... I'm so thankful these are only available for a season. (Yes of course I know the internet exists and you can get anything at anytime but a man has to have some integrity here).


Halloween

Just save me the 100 Grands.

(and then give me the rest, too).


Licorice

Licorice isn't a season... it's a way of life. Licorice is divisive. Some love it, some are wrong. Some like it soft, some like it hard. (The harder the better, in my opinion, and add some salt.) Licorice is the bonne bouche of brilliant minds worldwide. It's a candy that requires a strategy. It will not go easily. Licorice takes a dedication to mastication. It contains glycyrrhizin.


And, let me be absolutely clear about this: licorice is always black. There is no exception or debate.


Twizzlers or Red Vines? Punch sand.


Get me Lakerol.
















Nougat

I have a thing for nougat. I'm not even totally clear what nougat IS, but I like it. There are two particular candies that really trip my nougat trigger: Abba-Zaba and BIG HUNK. They both combine nougat and... drum roll, please... PEANUTS. They are the real-life incarnation of Homer's terrible idea (social commentary withstanding). These should be gross. But I love them. The do-si-do of sweet and savory and the non-newtonian textural tug-of-war make these a personal favorite.

This is the candy equivalent of an antique store... one man's trash, another man's treasure.




Abba-Zaba is the epitome of what my son Sage calls, "backstore candy".


Tell them about backstore candy.


Last summer, we had company over and were talking about candy... at length and in detail. At some point, Sage derided something as "backstore candy". We all laughed and asked him to explain. He said it was a low form of candy, something you had to buy in a store that was only accessible by some kind of back alley entrance. And in that store, this candy was all the way in the back. We think he was just saying it's like old timey candy, but he also applied to candy he thought was crappy candy. It stuck. It became a thing. I even had a backstore candy potluck, where people had to bring the best/worst candy.


It's fun to talk about candy. It's a great topic for your next Zoom breakout.


This month has been interesting so far. I miss raisins. I miss chocolate after dinner. I miss peanuts. But I'm learning, so I'm pleased. I'm learning how often in a given day I want to eat something sweet. I'm becoming more aware of how a sweet or treat is a reward that I look forward to after a meal and what it feels like to forfeit that reward (hint: I don't love it). I'll be expounding on the idea of 'Treats' in my next article this month. If you're good... you'll get to read it.


j/k.


Thank you for reading.






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