Today is my 105th day without Alcohol. I’ll write about that some other time. The benefits are great, particularly great sleeps and no hangovers. But I have an addictive personality, and a far worse demon – sugar - has replaced the beer and wine with a vengeance. So much so that I am now going to give it up too, starting today.
This will not be easy. I think the Irish love sweet things more than most, especially with tea. Who wants tea without a biccie, a cake or a chocolate bar? Or coffee? Well, a lot of Irish pubs for a start. My father is now off sugar but used to love a purple snack with his coffee. All Irish pubs used to supply chocolate bars, especially snack bars, for the kids, the dry and the sweet-toothed. Imagine his horror when confronted with ‘we don’t do chocolate bars, but we have Pringles or Bacon Fries’ Pringles or Bacon Fries? With TEA? It was no wonder the country crashed so spectacularly. I’ll deal with those pubs some other time too.
But my relationship with sweets is a long one. Granny Cullivan in Cavan baked armies of buns that we greedily ate. They weren’t ‘cupcakes’ either. They were buns. Without icing. Cupcakes are just Eejitry, to borrow from Declan Lynch.
My earliest memory of a Dublin sweet snack is the smell of fresh Doughnuts from the Rolling Donut Kiosk on O’Connell St. The smell of sweetness, of dough frying and wafting through the freezing autumn air gave the street the same sense-memory you get from a travelling circus or Funderland. My false memory makes me think it was there in the 70s but supposedly it opened in 1988, the year of the ‘Carmencita Hederman Millennium’ and Ray Houghton. The idea of ‘freshly fried’ may sound odd, but those doughnuts were, and are, delicious. I didn’t know they had opened a sit-down spot in Aungier St, which I have yet to try. But as a fan of Kiosks (Ismael Kebab being my other favourite), I love the uniqueness of the Rolling Donut on our premier street.
Later on Dunkin’ Donuts opened, and we congregated there before we snuck into the William Tell (now the Hairy Lemon). Beer replaced sweet stuff for a long time. Even during the Tiger years cheese was my preferred dessert, though visits to my Mom’s family in America always included a trip to Carvel Ice-Cream where you could have a whipped Chocolate Cone dipped in a quickly hardening chocolate outer shell.
Pecan Pie. Chocolate Brownies with Ice Cream. Kit Kats. The Carrot Cake from Simon’s Place. All will become distant memories. But how to do it - how to say goodbye to sugar?
Service in certain establishments will help. Like my Dad, I like my dessert with my tea or coffee, not before or after. I don’t care what the etiquette is. I don’t care what the rules say – that’s what I want. 99% of the time restaurants don’t do this. It’s as if they’ve heard me but it’s like a Jedi-mind trick in reverse and they do the exact opposite. Or they laugh and say ‘yes, don’t worry’ and the coffee arrives fifteen minutes later while I’ve sat not touching my dessert. Or vice-versa. Torture. Not having to go through that will help.
Research also helps. In my sobriety I found some amazing non-alcoholic beers (Nanny State from Brew Dog is 0.5% - not completely Alcohol-free but really, really tasty). And in the same way I’m going to find the sweetest and tastiest ways of making sugar-free treats, and - as with the alcohol - so many people come out of the woodwork to offer their alternative discoveries. Already I’m inundated with ideas, links and recipes! It’s an adventure in itself. So if you are thinking of giving up sugar, remember you’re not alone. Now if only I could say the same about my next plan - to give up Christmas…