I love food of every kind enough that I’m often quite satisfied to have meals and days without much sugary content. But my craving for sweet tastes always returns at one time or another, and sometimes in overwhelming fashion, and then I may as well feed the monster with a little bit of indulgence rather than trying to be more abstemious than my nature will long tolerate–that always only ends in the eventual pendulum swing of brazen excess, if my history serves as any example. Besides, I don’t really have to be so very wild to find a little sweet solace.
Sometimes a great piece of fresh fruit will suffice for the need of the moment. Then, though I’m well aware I’m eating nearly pure sugar, it’s not so over-processed and hyper-refined as some treats and I console my conscience, if it’s at all nagging, that I’m getting a few dashes of vitamins or other goodies of however tiny nutritive value, as opposed to simply crunching down a fistful of plain sugar, which, you may be surprised to know, I don’t find all that compelling even when my sweet tooth is aching for appeasement. A glorious, juicy, perfumed peach or pear is pretty hard to resist, though, or a handful of brilliantly sun-ripened blackberries or strawberries bursting with juice. Now, I won’t lie: if there happened to be a piece of dark chocolate to nibble alongside said fruit, I would certainly not offend anyone offering it by refusing such an option, because I’m far too nice for that sort of behavior.
Sometimes even the less dessert-oriented dishes, if I add a hint of sweetness to them, will happily assuage my yearnings for candy-like substances. The cabbage slaws and salads I make are by far most often on the sweet or sweet-tangy side rather than strictly savory, because I love the clean crispness of fresh crunchy cabbage and perhaps a little carrot or celery or cucumber or such when complemented with sweet tastes. A jot of honey or agave syrup, maple syrup (the dark, Grade B stuff, if you please–the whole point of maple syrup is lost if it’s refined to the point of tasting like sugar-water)–these bring so much, even in small quantities, to offset the heaviness or intensity of good fats, savory and umami tastes, and even to enhance them. Of course, if there’s any meat, especially a mild flavored one like pork or chicken, or maybe a nice solid seafood like sashimi grade tuna, wild-caught salmon or big meaty prawns on the plate, these can be so beautifully magnified in their satisfying richness with the addition of a bit of glaze: a sauce or a chutney, for example, with sweet or citrusy fruit, with reduced wine, with floral essences like rose or vanilla, that they can rein in my sweetness-compulsion quite nicely. Until the next time, at least!
Sometimes, of course, only something that seems genuinely like dessert will do. But it still doesn’t have to be an outrageously carbohydrate-centric sugar bomb to be perfectly marvelous and fully delicious. Rusticity, simplicity and even a little hint of good nutritional qualities can win the day when they’re just what I’m craving. Take the little baked custard I made when I was longing for pumpkin pie but really didn’t want to fuss over or consume a floury pastry piecrust: yummy as those can be, I’m finding the disagreement between wheat-based foods and my digestive system just isn’t worth the price of admission anymore. But when I took a plain little tin of prepared (plain) pureed pumpkin, stirred it up with a spoonful of vanilla, a pinch of salt, a good dose of raw wild honey, a couple of eggs and a big powdering of Vietnamese cinnamon, whipped it up and put it in a buttered ceramic bowl in the microwave (I ‘waved it, covered, on High, checking from about 4 minutes on until it was nearly non-wiggly), it came out willing to imitate a freshly baked pumpkin pie quite nicely and the sweet-toothed dragon was greatly mollified by the whole. It may not have been Thanksgiving Day, but I know I for one was thankful enough! And that’s all I really want from a bit of sweetness.
Ask my husband.