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A Sour Month Part One

(post, Trista Cornelius)

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Nine years ago, my husband and I started a tradition we call “Meatless March.”  During the month of March, every year, we eliminate meat from our diet to launch us out of food habits and into the adventure of exploring new foods and recipes.  We loved forging new gastronomical territory together and bonding over successes and failures. 

However, five years ago, I committed to a nearly-vegan diet; now I eat meat-free year round.  My husband continues to eat meat, but he also continues to observe “Meatless March.”  We experimented with ways I could re-join him in the adventure, and last year, he came up with a plan that proved to be a mighty challenge for me.  While he gives up his beloved chicken every March, I must give up all sweets:  no sugar, no sugar substitutes, no agave, brown rice or maple syrup, etc.  

Yep, that also means no chocolate.  Gasp!

If you’re still reading, you now know why I call March a sour month. Last year, I absolutely dreaded the month.  Until my husband challenged me to give up sweets, I had been sure I didn’t consume that much sugar.  To my surprise, I saw that I ate a lot more dessert than I ever noticed or admitted.  

It took just over two weeks to stop missing sweets, to stop waking up each day and thinking, “Nothing sweet today.  No dessert today.  No chocolate today.”  By the end of the month, to my surprise, I didn’t want anything sweet.  I’d imagined baking a pan of blondies—a vegan dessert of chewy, brownie-like batter topped with caramelized pecans.  I even decided I’d let myself eat the entire pan if I wanted to.  By the end of the month, I didn’t want them, and I realize now that I haven’t made blondies since before last March.  

Even so, it’s not like my sweet tooth changed permanently.  March functions as a ballast stabilizing my life.  The 31 days of zero sweets recalibrates my palate.  Afterward, I am satisfied with much less.  Most importantly, I return to eating desserts in a normal, healthy way:  on occasion, without guilt, without gluttony, and because it sounds good.  At some unrecognizable point during the year, however, I lose balance, start consuming more desserts, usually gluttonous bouts of stuffing my face with chocolate while stewing about a rough day.  Soon, those feasts happen closer and closer together.  Then, “Voila!” it’s January, and I’m eating entire dark chocolate bars in one sitting!  (I’m not exaggerating.)  Worse, I’m turning to dessert for all the dangerous reasons:  comfort, security, pity party, escape, relaxation, numbness.  

So, it’s almost March.  

I feel pretty confident but a little apprehensive.  I tend to forget that my husband is in this with me, that he, too, will be longing for his comfort foods.  It’s just that he usually makes it look so easy, I forget that I’m doing this to be in it with him.  Okay, back to the point of Meatless March—to forge ahead together into new culinary adventures.  Perhaps I will explore sugarless desserts, if there are such things, or concoct new rituals in place of dessert.  Herbal tea?  Sigh.  Sounds like a poor substitute.  

Stay tuned to hear how my sour month goes.  I could definitely use some encouragement, and any advice or recipes will be very welcome.