Sweets for the Sweet (& All Others, Too)

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Remember this…

Long-Awaited Benison

The sweetest sound the human ear has heard
Was not a waterfall or splashing brook
To thirsty thoughts; nor thirsty mind, a book
Read out; nor singer’s voice, nor whistling bird

In spring’s cool song; it wasn’t kittens’ purr
Or baby’s comfortably cooing charms
When resting safely in his mother’s arms
—Though it might then seem wildly sweet to her

It wasn’t the “I love you” of romance,
Nor was the sweetest sound of clinking gold,
—Though to its owner, that cannot grow old—
But rather, barring mystic happenstance,

The miracle of sound most truly sweet
Was Mama’s voice announcing, “Come and eat!”

Above and Beyond

digital illustrationSky Candy

Stars, sun, comets, moon and planets; rain and lightning, clouds and mist;

Birds and butterflies and rainbows; dragonflies by morning kissed:

What a sparkling declaration of the minutes passing by,

What a joy, this constellation of sweet treasures in the sky!

Though I hunger in the silence of shut-in days, sleeping, blind,

I keep constantly the radiance of these jewels in my mind,

Hoping, dreaming, moving, soaring–real, or the internal, eye

Loves the beauties so alluring of sweet treasures in the sky!

I Mean It. Don’t be a Meanie!

Ebenezer Scrooge was far from alone. And the holidays are certainly not the only time when Scrooge and his ilk get wound up. Still, big events and celebrations are and always have been pretty predictable catalysts and triggers for bad moods and attitudes of any sort. If we aren’t happy, we’re remarkably good at being as far opposite to it as we can figure out how to make ourselves. High horses are not so high that people don’t try to climb aboard them mighty often. High dudgeons are terribly popular dwellings with the general citizenry, who move into them and dig in our heels as though to that manor born.

Add to this our natural gifts for finding clouds obliterating every one of our silver linings, and t’s not much of a stretch to think that many of us are in a cynical competition to see who can be the snarliest, gnarliest meanie in existence. We’re always looking for the way to shoehorn yet more nasty junk and grim excuses for hideous horripilation into the darkest corners of ourselves and the universe. And when one looks for something hard enough, one almost always finds it. We may be a crotchety breed but we’re still good at some things. The latest news reports are always brimming over with greed and violence and hate. We make the news and we eat it up, too. More’s the pity.

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Captain Crankypants, the Crabbiest Creature in Creation

Why even mention it? Because we have choices. And now, in the shadow of the latest awful tales of murder and depravity and betrayal and any sort of human ugliness you can (or maybe can’t) imagine, it’s holiday time once again. Christmas, yes, and Hanukkah, Ramadan, the New Year (westerners and the Chinese, for example, celebrating it in full gear), Kwanzaa, Tet, a birthday or two zillion. So many opportunities for blow-ups and melt-downs and general cussedness. And we don’t have to succumb to any of them. We can be better than that.

And we should. We should, most of all, when it’s time for all that holiday innocence-wisdom-love-light-and-warmth, stuff that can both exacerbate and offset darker things, choose to enhance it rather than the opposite. The greatest possible gift we can give to others and ourselves for any celebration is to be agents of innocence, wisdom, love, light and warmth instead of any passing urge to give in to crass or cranky behavior. Hugs and kisses are the order of the day. Make peace; be nice–it’s a holiday. Give in to it!

Foodie Tuesday: You are So Sweet!

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I'm bananas over you, my darling . . .

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.

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With almonds, black and white sesame seeds, orange segments and pickled ginger and a citrus vinaigrette dressing, salad becomes close enough to pass for dessert . . .

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.

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I may be cracked, but the sweetness you give me keeps me feeling like I'm enjoying my just desserts . . .