"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Friday, June 10, 2011

Food For Thought Friday: Sugar, nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh, O Honey, Honey...

Pentecost is one of the 2 greatest feasts for Christians. The other is Easter. Christmas is, surprise, a distant third. I'm not going to discuss the theology behind that, though you may want to google it and read about why, as it is very interesting.

No, I'm here to talk about food and celebrations. Christmas and Easter, of course, are part of our national consciousness, for better or worse. But Pentecost is not, so I've been planning a day of celebration for the children to help them get the picture of the specialness of the feast called "The Birthday of the Church."

I received an email link today to a food craft for Pentecost. The link was to a Catholic blog that might as well be called "How to Become a Diabetic Using your Faith as an Excuse." It's a recipe blog drowning in marshmallows and choking on chocolate. I know I will sound harsh saying this. I know. But I'm saying it because I love you. Really, I do. And you, and you, and you, and all your CHILDREN.

What message do we send our children when we use any day of joy as an excuse to cram our bodies with harmful substances? Sure, it's easy to wow kids with sugary foods, doused in chemical-laden Hershey's Syrups. It tastes good. It looks pretty. It's easy for me as a mom to do. And it makes the day feel special.

But the underlying message there is 'junk food is special,' 'joy requires indulgence,' and 'every feast day is an excuse for gluttony.' And the idea that junk-food is an American birthright. (See this article: .)

Why do we, as adults, as mothers, feel that the only way to celebrate is to glut ourselves with things that hurt our bodies, and thereby, in the long run, our souls? St. Paul says "Grace builds upon nature." That is, God works easiest and best in him who accepts and nurtures his own true 'natural' nature. But by filling our bodies with substances that harm them, in the name of "special occasions", over time we weaken the body and make the spiritual life more difficult.

Ever had a hangover? Was it easy to practise virtue the next morning? Ever been on a sugar binge? Is it easy to focus on tasks at hand when all you can think about is how much you need- fill in the blank: chocolate, coffee, licorice, any other junkfood that you can't get out of your head because you've been indulging too much too frequently. Or worse, because your head is so fuzzy you just can't think, period, till you get your blood sugar up with that sugar or caffeine fix?

The FDA sets a daily MAXIMUM sugar intake of 40 grams. (As of now, that's for adults on a 2,000 calorie diet. Most kids don't eat 2,000 calories and if they actually eat 40 grams of sugar, well... you get the picture.)

That's 10 teaspoons. Of added sugar: white sugar, maple syrup, honey (ya, even honey), high fructose corn syrup (shudder), regular corn syrup, get it? SUGAR, people. Fruit isn't counted in that 40 grams, nor are the natural starch sugars in potatoes, rice, bread, etc.

In my opinion, it's still high. But let's face it, most folks do double or triple that. A single can of Pepsi has 103% your daily max of sugar. A Yoplait yogurt? 70%. And don't think diet stuff puts you in the clear.

The problem with sugar is the blood sugar swings it causes. It's hard on your pancreas and liver. Guess what? Diet sweeteners, even without the sugar grams, cause the same blood sugar swings so hard on your organs. They do it with chemicals, not sugar grams. Gee, great. NOT.

The above mentioned food craft, I conservatively estimate at about 200% of an ADULT'S maximum sugar intake. I realize that to children who eat 'fruit' snacks, Little Debbies, and Lunchables as daily fare, it takes a lot to make a day seem special. But that's another post, right?

How does a person celebrate responsibly. Sigh.

Well, this Sunday is Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given to the
Church. The colors are red (for fire) and white (for the dove who usually represents the Holy Spirit). So while, sure, strawberry syrup on grocery store vanilla ice cream fits the bill, I beg you, dear reader, resist.

Here is my tentative menu:
Breakfast- the usual. Oatmeal, focusing on white (chopped, peeled apples) and red (a dollop of strawberry all-fruit spread)
Lunch- Cranberry Scones and Soy Yogurt Sundaes with all red-and-white topping (i.e. hemp seeds and chopped blanched almonds, chopped strawberries )
Dinner- Pork loin, sweet potatoes, brocolli, biscuits in the shape of a dove (if I get out today and buy a $1 cookie cutter at Hobby Lobby), spinach salad with strawberries, and, for dessert, a fruit salad of fresh cherries, strawberries, and peeled apples. Sometimes we slice the apples across into thin sections and cut them with our tiny cookie cutters. If I get really ambitious, I might make some cashew cream to plop on top of the fruit salad.

It's a simple, fresh menu. But to us, it's a celebration. I like to remind myself that presentation is more than half of a celebration. If the little people decorate sheets of 11x17 typing paper with red and black markers, on a red tablecloth- or sheet!- and you use the nice dishes and the wine glasses, then hey, it's a feast! Something might come up to prevent my beautiful menus from getting made just so, but it will still be a feast.

Please more yogurt sundae, Mom?

Of course, we will also read from one of our children's bibles or picture books the story of Pentecost and maybe we will do some drawing, if we don't spend all day at the pool swimming.

"Feast, n. A festival. A religious celebration usually signalized by gluttony and drunkenness, frequently in honor of some holy person distinguished for abstemiousness."
-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

If I have time I will come back later and add the scone recipe.
OK, just see tomorrow's post!

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