Lent, sugar, wholefoods and obsessions

I go through these funny minor obsessions. Sometimes they last for mere hours, triggered by a smell or a passing glance at something online. Sometimes they last a little longer. Lent is a good example. I’m a Buddhist but live in a society where Christianity looms as a significant undercurrent – Easter and Christmas are widely celebrated and I go along with their seasonal flows. Something of interest always crops up.

For as long as I can remember I have given up sugar for Lent. This year was no exception. Sometimes the abstinence is easy and sometimes I struggle. This year took the latter form and was probably the hardest in memory. I have succumbed to what can only be described as the ‘sugar-rush’ a couple of times (normally I make it the whole way through) and have been constantly daydreaming of vegan treats to rustle up at the end of Lent. On my recent daytrip to Birmingham I even bought a vegan bakewell slice and was offered by the owner of 100% Vegan a taster of vegan fudge. Both were delicious. I bought a can of vegan condensed milk from there and elsewhere online some Italian, organic, vegan creams variously comprised of millet, rice and spelt. I was mentally concocting various ice-creams … but then, as quickly and strongly as these obsessions came, they went.

Easter is now over a week ago and the chocolate, as good as can be (vegan, organic, fairtrade) sits unopened. Instead, I am perusing wholefood cooking ideas here-there-and-everywhere and my current guiding direction comes from the introduction to Annemarie Colbin’s The Natural Gourmet (her italics below),

‘The dishes in this book are meatless, with only a few exceptions. It is possible to be a healthy vegetarian provided you eat whole-grain-and-bean combinations daily and a variety of vegetables of all colors. It is also imperative that you avoid the use of white table sugar and the foods containing it. Refined sugar is a pure carbohydrate, lacking in all other nutrients; therefore it creates a relative deficiency, or nutrient debt, by not providing the fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins and water present in the original sugarcane. Since the body is most naturally prepared to consume nutrients in their natural context, it responds to such a lack with a deficiency syndrome. A meatless, dairy-free diet that includes sugar will therefore weaken and demineralize you. If you decide to continue consuming sugar, please go back to eating meat, fish, or fowl …’

Of course, most people (including myself) are pretty much aware of the evils of sugar. Saying that, I am also pretty much sure that I will indulge in sugar from time-to-time. I find it interesting that even 'healthy' food websites (both raw and cooked, vegan and non-vegan) tend to be dominated by puddings, cakes and desserts once you start scanning their recipe lists ... The bombardment simply doesn't stop. For me, the 'shift' of Lent was to move from the mental aspect to the body itself. Of course, the two are indivisible, but I have really tried to process how the intake of sugar changed the way I felt within my body, instead of just my mind. It's a good place to start.

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