Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Monkey on My Back

"Hi. My name is LK, and I'm a sugar addict."

"Hi, LK. Welcome!"

I used to have a problem with chocolate -- needed some every day, got cranky if I didn't have it, wanted no other type of sweet -- but as I began cutting out dairy, I found that my initial distaste for many carob and dairy-free chocolate products naturally helped me curb my chocolate consumption. But as my chocolate consumption waned, I began taking up all kinds of candy that I wouldn't have bothered with previously: Twizzlers, Mike & Ikes, hard candies. I'd stand in the candy aisle at grocery stores and convenience stores for half an hour at a time, scouring the shelves for anything that didn't have milk products or eggs.

Then I started reading more about how white sugar is produced, so I stopped using it in my baking at home, because it made sense to me that if I'm going to avoid using gelatin-containing stuff because it *is* bones, I should stop using white sugar because it's made *with* bones. But even though I thought about the issue deeply enough to cut out my use at home, I didn't stop to think that white sugar is the type of sugar used in virtually all sweets produced commercially (except for those few that specifically state otherwise on their wrappers). Finally, I read something in one of Jo's essays (or maybe it was an Ask Jo! column) that said explicitly that most commercial products that contain sugar use *white* sugar. And that's when I decided I would no longer buy products made with white sugar.

The effort to give up white sugar has been far harder than cutting out meat, or even eggs. Dairy was hard for me, because I loved cheese and ice cream (and chocolate, as I've mentioned), but once I really committed to making that change in my life, it was fine. The fact that there are wonderful dairy-free substitutes for my favorite dairy-full foods has helped since I have acquired a taste for them, at long last. But sugar... Ah, sugar. That has been another matter entirely.

Although I was never much of a candy-eater before going vegan, I've gained such an affinity for the stuff that it's a struggle now to give it up. I eat lots of fruit, especially dried fruit. I try to make sure I have soy ice creams and Clif Bars on hand when I have a craving for something sweet. But there's still something about candy that gets me, because it can't be substituted.

There's something purely naughty about eating candy -- looking at the bright colors and feeling the soft give of the chewy heart of a candy nestled within a crisp shell, and knowing, deep down, that this is something truly bad for me, and that I'm enjoying it fully. That's the feeling that made it difficult to give up cigarettes; I was never a heavy smoker, so I can't say that it was the nicotine I was addicted to -- I was addicted to the very *act* of smoking. I think that's how it started for me with sugar; I loved the experience of popping those brightly colored, sugar-coated nubbins in my mouth so much that I indulged frequently, and by the time I decided to give it up, it was tough to do. Now, when I'm being "good" and staying away from candy, I not only miss the taste and other sensations of eating it, I also miss the jittery giddiness that goes along with candy consumption, the knee-jiggling, eye-blinking, hyper-aware mania, followed by the dry-mouthed, yawning stupor that sends me in search of caffeine and more sugar to get me going again.

In the deepest part of my heart, I'm committed to giving up sugar, both because of the ethical reasons that initially brought me to the decision and the realization that it's physically and, at this point, probably emotionally bad for me. I've been able to stay away from it for three or four weeks at a time, which gives me hope that I'll be able to get on that wagon and stay there one day soon. But a part of me still hopes that that day doesn't come *too* soon. And that's what makes me realize that as far as I've come in acknowledging the problem and trying to deal with it, I still have a long way to go.

LK
New Jersey

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