The Sweets Issue


We Love Sugar, and Sugar Slowly Kills Us


Hawk Krall

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The Sweets Issue

It's 2012, and everything is backward. Today, people are fighting to legalize pot—a substance that was pounded into our child brains as bad bad BAD—yet control delicious, harmless sugar, a substance that was poured into our child mouths. There are candy taxes, advertising restrictions, and product size regulations: The War on Sugar is America's new War on Drugs.

Sugar is now a political stance. First Lady Michelle Obama tells us to stop eating sugar, to eat more vegetables. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to ban the sale of large containers of soda and sugar-filled drinks. Our nation is getting fat and sick. Type 2 diabetes rates are up 90 percent in the last decade. By 2030, 42 percent of Americans will be obese.

Despite the public outcry against sugar, throw a rock in Seattle and it will hit a new cupcake shop, ice cream parlor, candy store, or specialty boutique bakery.

Even if you purposefully avoid the sugar sellers on every block, the white stuff is waiting for you in foods where you wouldn't expect to find it. Take a look through your cupboard and refrigerator—it's there, hiding behind names like "corn syrup," "dextrose," "glucose," "fructose," and "maltose." There are literally dozens of forms of it, but scientifically, it's ALL SUGAR. It's in salad dressing, ketchup, and spaghetti sauce.

Like the rest of America's, my personal relationship with sugar is a sordid affair—yours probably is, too. A study by Dr. Robert Lustig, a California-based endocrinologist, claims that sugar can be as addictive as cocaine. "It causes a euphoric effect that triggers dopamine, the chemical that controls pleasure in the brain," he stated on 60 Minutes in April.

Once we have it, we want more, more, MORE!

As I've written about in the past, I spent one winter staving off depression by way of baking hundreds of batches of cookies, and I am not exaggerating when I say that those cookies helped save my life. Sugar, you're so great!

But I've also written about trying to kick my cupcake-a-day habit by way of fasts and detoxes and self-help books. I've chugged ground-up corn husk and eaten a potato every night before bed, but the pie kept calling my name. Sugar, you bitch.

My love/hate relationship with the stuff recently magnified times infinity, as I finally put my self-taught baking talents (culminated from years of cookie and cake cravings) to good use. I wrote a cookbook called Bake It in a Cupcake: 50 Treats with a Surprise Inside, which is dedicated to all the things you can bake into cupcakes—baklava, mini cherry pies, brownies, and macaroons. It's totally ridiculous, I know, but it is pretty awesome (it will be out October 2 thanks to Andrews McMeel Publishing).

I created all the recipes in the book, and tested them over and over again. Testing means tasting. Lots and lots of tasting. With the extra baking, tasting, and sitting down to write the book more often than getting up and moving came more extra pounds than I care to admit in print. Don't get me wrong—I'm so excited about the cookbook! And I'm really fucking proud of it. But fuck, man, sugar really is a cruel mistress, on both a human and a national level.

Which leads us to this package of stories. All these pieces are about both the bright and the dark side of sugary treats, and the deeply conflicted relationship we have with them.

Self-admitted cookie dough addict Cienna Madrid comes face-to-face with her supplier, Cougar Mountain Baking Company (see here). We learn about how hard bees work (they visit millions of flowers!) just so you can sweeten up your tea (see here). There are stories about the dangerous desserts that are set aflame (here) and the funny characters who are lighting the match (here); there are love letters to the gross candy we can't get enough of (here) and the ice cream makers we love (here), and the pastries and sundaes we shove in our faces even though we know doing so could be a hazard to our health (here and here).

Welcome to the other side of sugar. It might be dark, but with the average American consuming 167.3 cups of sugar a year, it's certainly not a lonely place. recommended


Comments (13) RSS

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freesandbags 1
I'm Hungry!!!!
Posted by freesandbags on August 8, 2012 at 9:14 PM · Report this
You'll have to pry that sugary energy drink (62g in every can) out of my cold, dead, diabetic hand.
Posted by drinkup on August 8, 2012 at 10:03 PM · Report this
Can't I have that pastry if I avoid soda, candy, and most forms of added sugar in my meals? I'm certainly going to die trying...
Posted by FreeJena2 on August 8, 2012 at 10:32 PM · Report this
Oh, and I have to believe that millions of Europeans can't be wrong...bakeries are aMAZing and a way of life over there... It's all the other shit we're consuming, not to mention the high fructose garbage we use instead of the real deal...'kay, I'm done...
Posted by FreeJena2 on August 8, 2012 at 10:34 PM · Report this
Anyone concerned about sugar should read Sugar Blues by William Dufty. It has lots of useful history, including some mind-blowing anecdotes. In print since 1975.
Posted by Che Guava on August 9, 2012 at 11:47 AM · Report this
My doctor says that anything that makes you happy is good for you, and I live by this lesson. Sugar is getting a bad name, and it doesn't deserve so, for surely, adult onset diabetes can be cured in 3 months, easily, so proclaims my doctor, with changes to diet and exercise, it literally will be gone in under 3 months, it is really that simple. I file the sugar debate under the heading, "Don't Care"...
Posted by scratchmaster joe on August 9, 2012 at 1:00 PM · Report this
@6: Anything that makes you happy is good for you? Ok, try heroin. Tell me how happy you are in 3 months.

I remember reading about this writer and how she was taking up running and giving up the sweet stuff. Wondered how she'd been doing - glad to hear an update, even if she gave in to the sugar addiction! At least she got a cookbook out of it :) Not much I can say for me and my Mike and Ikes.
Posted by SaraJean on August 9, 2012 at 3:58 PM · Report this
It's not eating cupcakes with tones of sugar that's even remotely the problem. The problem is refined sugar and HFCS is now in EVERYTHING in increasing amounts. Sugar in the form HFCS is in foods where once there was no sugar at all. The REAL issue is the amount of sugar we now consume without even knowing is staggering.

The fact that type II diabetes and hypertension in children under 13 years old is now a growing problem that did not exist 3o years ago should have sparked a food revolution. But it didn't.

Because. Food companies hand the farm bill. Plus. Well. We wouldn't want to start a moral panic or "fat shame" anybody, would we. Now that fat shaming is in anyway implying obesity is not a desirable outcome for 60%+ of our society. The symptoms of a successful propaganda and PR coup for Nabisco and General Foods (the food corporations learned how to obfuscate from Global Warming deniers) that even good liberals play right into.
Posted by tkc on August 10, 2012 at 11:15 AM · Report this
The answer is simple:
Farm subsidies for leafy greed vegetables instead of nutritionally vacant corn.

Problem solved. Sugar's prices will go up and nutritious vegetables will become easy and cheap to acquire.

Well, after the fires and looting that happens when all of us addicts are cut off from our supply...
Posted by FairyKukla on August 10, 2012 at 12:42 PM · Report this
Death by chocolate!!!!! YEAHHHHHHHH, BABYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on August 11, 2012 at 1:43 AM · Report this
Free Busch On Tuesday 11
Can't we just give people cocaine instead, just like giving heroin users methadone. Cocaine for sugar trade ins at every corner store.
Posted by Free Busch On Tuesday on August 12, 2012 at 4:36 PM · Report this
@11: Nah, I'll stick to chocolate, thanks. The only side effect is that it'll still be with me in 20 years!!
Posted by auntie grizelda on August 14, 2012 at 11:11 AM · Report this
Obese people should pay more tax.
Posted by lordcardigan on August 23, 2012 at 12:11 PM · Report this

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