grow it cook it preserve it eat it wendy pillar blog gardener grow your own in dorset

Sugar - an ongoing battle - November 2015

How's my attempt to give up sugar going? Not fabulously, I admit. I have managed to not eat cake while out (apart from on John Wright's mushroom foray, when it's practically obligatory), and to not bake cakes or make any puddings. However, the house is just full of sugar! It's not exactly the kind of household that has Magnum multipacks in the freezer and chocolate digestives in the cupboard, but there are sugary foods everywhere nonetheless.

I have a cupboard full of jam, for a start - nectarine jam from last year's glut, and damson jam from when my neighbour went on holiday in October and left me in charge of his orchard (very foolish!). I have only made two jars of jam this year - crab apple jelly, my favourite - and they are also in the cupboard, looking at me. What I'll do in coming years as my crab apple trees come into full production if I can't make jelly, I'm not sure. There's also chutney, made with brown sugar.

There are five jars of peach butter in the fridge, along with several of blackcurrant butter. Neither of these has added sugar, but boiling off all the water concentrates the natural sugar sufficiently for them to count as jam. Similarly, there is plum butter (delicious!) and peach gelato in the freezer - in unknown quantitites, as it's hard to find anything in the freezer under the mountain of fruit!

In the kitchen cupboards, there are sultanas and other dried fruit, as well as self-raising flour and cocoa powder, which is just an incitement to make chocolate cake. How can you use either of these ingredients without using sugar? Besides which, there is also icing sugar, caster sugar and brown sugar! On top of that, there's sorghum flour, which I use for gluten-free cakes for my husband, and ground almonds, which I use for many delicious bakes, such as frangipani!

What I should do, of course, is bin the lot. I can't waste food though. My head knows that eating something you don't need is pretty much as wasteful as binning it, but my soul doesn't. I received too many childhood lectures on 'starving children in Africa' and was thoroughly trained to clear my plate. Food waste is a crime in our house. At the very last resort, waste food goes into the dog's dinner, not the bin - but I am not baking cakes for the dogs!

Basically, even if I manage to resist the best efforts of food marketing and social pressure, I'm still screwed. The best I can do is prevent any further sugar and baking supplies from entering the house and gradually use up what is here. For that to be successful, I may also need to avoid all images of Mary Berry to escape accidental inspiration to bake. Just seeing her face brings on a Pavlov's dog-type urge to bake stuff!

Further adjustment and renegotiation of my relationship with food is needed - how I celebrate, how I comfort myself on a bad day, how I feel good. That involves changes to lifelong food habits that have already been changed quite markedly in recent years, and it's not going to happen overnight. What is more, trying to eliminate sugar from my diet entirely and permanently, even if it is an interesting experiment in the short term, would probably turn me into a self-righteous pain in the butt - 'Ketchup? Do you know how many teaspoons of sugar are in that?' It is not something that's going to happen overnight, more of a long-term permanent work in progress.

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