My son, Cowboy, loves to eat. He comes by that honestly, but unlike his parents, his tremendous intake isn’t reflected in his weight. It’s unfair to the rest of us. Second only to his love for water parks is his adoration for restaurants, both eating in and take-out orders. Anything that involves not eating home food brings him joy, and he’d starve, were it not for other people’s cooking. I work hard to not be offended by his lack of appetite for my creations.
As we rounded the corner into the Last Week of Summer Freedom before he started back to his vocational program, I told him we’d pack as much fun in as possible. Immediately, he told me “Luby’s” in sign language.
“Oh, we haven’t been there in a long time,” I replied. “Sounds great. We’ll have lunch there tomorrow.”
When we arrived at Luby’s the next day, he loaded up.
A big salad, a large chopped steak, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, and blue Jell-O. Of course, because we limit sugar for Cowboy, he gave me his is-it-okay-to-have-this-today glance. We rarely have dessert after a meal, at home or in restaurants.
“Sure, go ahead.” I answered. “This can be your sugar for the day; no more after this.”
After we got settled at our table, he started digging in. Not into his salad, or his meat, or his potatoes. No, first he ate the Jell-O, with unabashed excitement. He looked up to see if I approved, but he knew the answer. He’s a chip off the old sugar cube, knowing my dessert-first mentality. What difference does it make? An entire meal goes to the same place in a relatively short time. Perhaps the world would be a happier place if everyone had dessert first.
I was proud to see Cowboy carrying on my legacy. Nothing says “love” like a sugary indulgence. That’s why God made sugar, to show His love to the world.
Immediately following His “Let there be light” proclamation, He made sugar cane. I guess He made light before sugar so humans could see the desserts gracing their fig-leaf plates. Unfortunately, God must’ve been in a hurry to get to His next creation; He forgot to take the calories out of the Blessed Sugar Cane. Or maybe it was a case of miscommunication; perhaps He’d meant “Let there be lite,” but the universe thought He meant illumination rather than caloric wattage. Whatever the reason, I’m having an eternal love affair with crystal sweetness that puts a damper on maintaining weight loss.
But I have a dream. A dream of a world in which sugar is no longer the culinary villain, but the hero. A world where my destiny would reverse, in the most pleasant way. Let me take you into my fantasy, dear reader….
Imagine you’ve been living life without sugar. Okay, that’s not the fantasy part yet; don’t stop reading, out of despair. It gets better. Anyway, you eat tons of carrots, celery, and parsley. You are doing everything humanly possible to lose extra weight. But that number on the scale keeps going up, and your jeans scream out when you put them on.
Concerned for your health, you go to the doctor. You begin describing your diet, but before you can finish, he's shaking his head with a knowing grin on his face.
"I see this all the time. People assume because it's green or raw or packed with vitamins, they need a portion of these every day."
"Yeah..." you reply, somewhat confused.
"Take a look at the food pyramid,” he says as he turns to a poster on the opposite wall, wielding his trusty pointer. Suddenly you’re in an episode of Mr. Peabody and Sherman. He points to the top, smallest block of foods needed for healthy nutrition.
"We'll start with what you need the least amount of in your daily diet. Plain Grains. I know most people like cereal, but unless it's frosted, colored, or artificially flavored, it's not as valuable to your body. And if you have rice, make sure it's in butter or sauce. Only one serving per day of unadulterated grains."
"Below that we have Fruits,” he continues. “Although fruit snacks and fruit-flavored candy are best, you can have real fruits in your diet, but eat no more than two servings per day."
At this point, you’re looking at the physician as if he’s a Froot Loop. Nothing he’s saying sounds familiar. This has to be a joke, you tell yourself, as you glance around the room for a hidden camera. I’m being Punk’d.
"Next, under Fruits and to the left, we have Fats. You need to bulk up with these to keep your weight down and your arteries and heart unclogged. Lard is best, followed by butter, whole milk and cheeses, all processed comfort food, fast food, and oils of all kinds. Remember, more is better. Five to seven large servings per day."
"To the right of Fats are Carbs. Pasta, pasta, pasta. It doesn't get any better than pastas. And smothering them in Alfredo sauce, you're getting a great two-for-one meal with fat and carbs. Potato chips, white bread, Cheetos, anything fried with a thick batter. Those are all great choices. Seven to nine servings a day."
At this point, your eyes are as big as saucers covered with chicken-fried steak. Your shirt is damp from drool.
“Doctor, this is crazy. This is nothing like the pyramids we learned in elementary school. I understand why I forgot algebra, but I’d never forget topics involving food. Lunch was my favorite subject.”
“Ah, you speak of the ancient pyramids from primitive civilizations. Where did you go to school?” he asks. “Were your parents culinary liberals who didn't buy into the Healthy Food Pyramid Establishment? I’ve heard about those counter-culture freaks who fed their kids green beans, squash, cabbage, every kind of vegetable imaginable, with no butter, no sour cream, and no cheese. Naked legumes ran rampant in your childhood home, didn’t they?”
You hang your disillusioned head.
“It’s okay,” the doctor consoles, “you carried your childhood habits into adulthood. It was all you’d ever known. But now you know the truth. And it has set you free.”
You wonder how your parents were never reported for neglect, as you recall being dragged to picket lines in front of bakeries, where you held toddler-sized signs proclaiming slogans like "Eat More Chickpeas," "Down With Saturated Fats, " and "Just Say No to Doughnuts." You held your sign, smelled cookies baking, and secretly dreamed of going in to partake of forbidden non-fruit.
When you come to out of your reverie, the doctor seems animated; he is practically glowing as he continues in his pyramid explanation.
"The last and most important category is on the bottom. This is the foundation of our sustenance as humans. The most important building block for proper health and slimness - sugar. Eat 11 to 14 healthy portions per day. This is vital. Stir it in water at home; carry packets to add to bottled water. Fill up on ice cream, candy, pie, cookies, sweet coffees, cake, syrup, strudel, soft drinks sweetened with cane sugar, pastries, and, most importantly, anything with sweetened chocolate."
"Anything with real sugar is fair game; it’s calorie-free, so you’ll lose weight by making it a staple in your daily meals, snacks, and beverages. Remember, you are what you eat, and we all need to be sweeter."
"And don't forget to eat vegetables sparingly,” the good doctor added. “Too many, and your six-pack abs become a ‘beet belly.’”
You thank the doctor, hopeful, but dazed. It will take hours to throw out your fresh produce and revamp your pantry. If only you'd been raised by normal parents. But you can't blame them forever - you're an enlightened adult, and it's time to take responsibility for your own health.
You drive away from the doctor’s office, and make a beeline for the nearest Shipley Do-Nuts. Next is Baskin-Robbins, followed by House of Pies. You're on your way to a slimmer, better you.
And so, dear reader, join me in my dream for all mankind. After all, without dreams, where would we be? Rotisserie meats originally consisted of carcasses turning over an open fire; now we have microwaves that cook whole chickens in record time. Tin cans and strings have been replaced with cell phones. The Pony Express gave way to Face Time, Skype, email, and texting. Never say never. My fantasy will come to pass, and you can say you heard it here first.
In the meantime, I’ll continue limiting Cowboy’s sugar for the sake of his health. On the contrary, I seem to be doing my part, one sugary treat at a time, to live as if The Dream were already a reality.