Friday, April 4, 2008

Om Gal Has A Confession

Shhh . . . Om Gal has a serious addiction. Until now, I've spared you the harrowing details of the rehabilitation program that I recently completed to address my dependency issues. I opted for a time-tested, no frills approach, foregoing the fancier treatment programs of stars like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. You know the ones, which sit high atop mountain ranges in Utah or Aspen, staffed with supportive teams of counselors and providing endless alternative activities to drug use, like hang-gliding and [insert feigned gasp of surprise] yoga! My program was a bit more bare bones than that; I call it "Lent." My substance of choice? White, powdery, high-octane sugar.

Like most things in my life, I don't over-indulge, but I do feed my sweet tooth with small doses of sugary satisfaction on a regular basis. You can keep your pizza and fries; I'll bypass your chips and beer; pasta and movie popcorn have zero seductive power over me. But, cover anything in chocolate- strawberries, almonds, pretzels, graham crackers- and I go weak in the knees. Say the word "caramel," and I hear angels sing. Mention the country of England, and my first association isn't the Queen, Big Ben, Prince William, or The Bachelor, but rather Cadbury's Dairy Milk.

Over the years, I've refined my habit to be less damaging, like a "social smoker," for example. At home, my stash might include crystallized ginger, No Pudge brownies, fudgicles, or So Delicious dairy-free dessert (which earns the highest OMG accolades). I'm of enough sound mind to avoid the hard stuff, as in, ice cream, absurdly over-processed candy in colors that do not occur in nature, and cake, mostly because, in the case of cake, I just don't like it. Does nothing for me. I'd rather get my high elsewhere.

For Lent, I ventured into uncharted territory. All chocolate, candy, dessert, and sweets would go. To be candid, it was hell. During the first couple weeks, the withdrawal symptoms were fierce. I daydreamed about chocolate pudding, stared longingly at dessert menus, and finished each meal with the thought, "If I could, I would have [fill in the blank]." I'd given up chocolate before and survived, so I figured upping the ante was somewhat obligatory. Whereas I previously would forgo chocolate and have some fruit sorbet, instead, now, the land mines were everywhere- bowls of hard candy on receptionists' desks, sample stations at Whole Foods, even my healthiest friends couldn't be trusted. At any moment, hard candies emerged from purses, errant cookies were purchased at Starbuck's by an unwitting pal with whom I was having tea, and colleagues breezed into my office casually enjoying and offering the latest acquisition from the vending machine. It was enough to drive a gal mad.

About 3/4 of the way through my 40-day penance, I considered jumping ship (ideally, into a sea of chocolate). What harm was my addiction doing anyway? Who would want to sacrifice such gifts from the sucrose gods? And, finally, the real kicker, I'm not even that Catholic! Yes, I was raised Catholic. I like church. My heart swells when we get to say "Peace be with you" to one another. I pray. A lot. But, c'mon, couldn't I just lump my Lenten delinquency into the category of all the other Catholic beliefs and practices with which I disagree, like disapproving of gay marriage, for example? (Tsk, tsk on that one!). In the scheme of things, really, It's just a fudgicle, people! I wanted to say. Where's the harm in such an innocent frozen confection?

Still, I persisted. I managed. I occasionally "fudged" my way through with questionable substitutions like hot chocolate with "No Sugar Added" and the aforementioned holy grail of healthy desserts, So Delicious dairy free "ice cream," but I stayed the course because I'd committed to doing so.

Today, I'm back on "the stuff" and quite pleased about it. My ability to moderate cravings was enhanced by the experience. I've learned that two Hershey kisses are always preferable to 12 lbs. of dried mango as an alternative; the latter might be natural, but it packs some serious sugar and, consequently, calories. I've also realized how many attractive options there are, which will help you get your fix without blowing your nutritional practices of choice. Finally, I've yet to cause myself or others any real damage by being hooked on the sweet stuff . . . provided, of course, no one steals my chocolate sorbet. Then, you better prepare to duck and cover from the wrath that could ensue.

As homage to my post-Lent, corralled dependence on sugar, here's my new, favorite, simple recipe for what I like to call Tofu Chocolate Cutie Pie.

Blend one block silken tofu with 2 Tbs. vanilla soy milk. Melt 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan ones work beautifully too). Fold the melted chocolate into the tofu mixture. Pour the creamy mix into a pre-made graham cracker pie crust. Chill overnight. Share with your sweetest friends.

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