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The Crusade Against Sweetness


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It's time someone said something. It's time someone did something! The infusion of sugar into everything from barbeque sauce to curry to coleslaw must end! It eradicates subtle and traditional flavours, and enslaves all the savouries with which it makes contact. I fail to grasp why so many people (evidently) like everything so sweet? Is it because it's a cheap and easy way to make a bland dish flavorful, even if that flavor is wholly out of place?

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article on the same idea ...

“I don’t think as individuals we really know how much sugar we’re getting at all.”

We come by the desire naturally. In the womb, a fetus will swallow more when the amniotic fluid is sweet.

Our sweet tooth sure isn’t lost on the makers of processed foods - every year they pour more sugars into more products. Statistics Canada has some numbers on how much we eat - about 23 teaspoons of added sugars everyday. If we were eating just all fruits and vegetables and getting our sugars just from there we’d be way better off," Mansfield said. "We’d have lower risk of heart disease, cancer, you name it."  Add up all those sugars and some people are eating more than half their body weight in sugars every year.

:shock:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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personally i think its a way to experiment and stretch our creativity..which i thought was what eg was about as well.....as a forum where we could come to share..express our ideas...to ask advise ...ask for help when needed or give help to others when they ask for it.... and while ive only been a part of it for about six months now ive seen many creative ideas encouraged...countless pieces of advise given and received and i love this place tremendously...

i would not knowingly squelch somebody else's creativity nor would i want mine discouraged either...if you dont care for the use of a particualr ingredient in something then by all means leave it out.. a recipe is merely a suggestion...creativity with it is yours.....

Edited by ladyyoung98 (log)

a recipe is merely a suggestion

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Finally, I can add mine. VINAIGRETTE DOES NOT HAVE SUGAR! I like acid, and balance. I am tired of eating salads that taste like dessert.

In Hawaii, everything is sweet or creamy; I try my best to alter this palate. I am getting there. When I started cooking here- there were no fresh herbs. Now there are major growers of everything.

We have the best mangoes, lychee, rambutan, papaya, and pineapple.

The big island is kicking butt on it's rambutan production. I am sure that they will be looking to the mainland to sell some of it.

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Sugar is The Devil's dandruff.

Used sparingly, sweetness can round off heat or acidity or bitterness. For the same reason, if used injudiciously it flattens out, supresses, and violently kills other flavours.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I agree with Smartmotrin on this one.

If you just look at the labels for ingredients of jars of stuff at the grocery store, you will be blown away by how prevalent added sugar is. There are lots of sauces and things I would love to try, but have always been let down by a cloying sweetness in the back due to an injection of HFCS.

Hell, even things that aren't sweet have added sugar, check out jars of mayo next time you are in the supermarket, more than half the brands put sugar in....

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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I agree with Smartmotrin on this one. 

Um, I think Smarmotron is a machine for producing smarm, rather than an intelligent headache pill. :biggrin: Sorry. I couldn't resist.

On topic, I actually like a hint of sweetness in a salad dressing, if the salad is composed of bitter greens, salty croutons, bacon pieces, maybe some shaved reggiano. A fruity note can help to balance it all out.

But it's true that people eat way too much sugar, and they drink too much sugar, too. I've come to despise grenadine, and it makes my teeth hurt just to look at it. I can't imagine why anyone would want to put it in anything meant for consumption.

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Finally, I can add mine. VINAIGRETTE DOES NOT HAVE SUGAR! I like acid, and balance. I am tired of eating salads that taste like dessert.

There's a restaurant near me whose house salad dressing consists of balsamic vinegar (reduced I think) and brown sugar. It's like syrup. And while it has some good things on the menu-- and everything is very well prepared-- it's amazing how many savory items they do have some form of fruit or sugar. Duck breast with cherries: fine. But the one chicken dish is topped with mangoes. They put dates on a pork cutlet with Gorgonzola. If you don't want to get fruit, you're pretty much stuck with fish.

I would say I don't understand it, but they've done very well for a long time, so someone must like it.

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Bit of a nuanced question, I think. A good deal of Asian food, for example, uses sugar in not insignificant quantities for otherwise savory dishes. Both Corleone family underboss Pete Clemenza and I (as I noticed last night while re-screening The Godfather) put a little sugar in our tomato sauce -- or red gravy, as some would have it. I like a pinch of sugar in a vinaigrette and have a favorite salad consisting of bitter greens and a honey-mustard dressing.

As for babrbecue sauce and cole slaw: hell yes. As I'm carving up the cabbage I sometimes remember one of my earliest cooking lessons, one that took place in the kitchen of a restaurant where I was working as a busboy (of course)/dishwasher. I summoned up my courage to tell the chef that the cole slaw tasted off. He shot me an evil look and tasted it himself -- and added a copious amount of sugar to the bowl. Admittedly, this was a guy who did not grow up in the Slaw Belt -- he was more likely raised on Seoul Food than Soul Food -- and he learned to cook as a caterer to the US Army, but the result was quite good, very close to what my Alabama Grandma made.

Like everything else, there's a right way and a wrong way to do it.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Not sugar. That would be bad enough. Corn syrup. In everything. Yuk.

There's a big difference between adding your own sugar, at your own discretion, to your recipes, and having corn syrup already added to everything you purchase. Yuk, did I say that already?

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Often sugar is found in very small amounts in traditional Chinese dishes. I repeat 'small amounts' --- to balance off the salty flavors. No problem. 1/2 tsp. of sugar in a dish serving 4 is not a big deal.

But what gets me, in a negative way, is the cloyingly sweet flavor in the Sweet/Sours -- General whoevers / Sesame or Orange this or that. This ceding to Western tastes gives Chinese food a bad name.

I make a meatball dish, with a sweet'sour glaze, that never ceases to get raves. The balance between sugar and vinegar is well-balanced, with the tartness of the vinegar standing out. It is similar to the original SS dishes of China where sugar and vinegar were just about half and half.

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Both Corleone family underboss Pete Clemenza and I (as I noticed last night while re-screening The Godfather) put a little sugar in our tomato sauce -- or red gravy, as some would have it. 

A little sugar will cut the acidity of the tomatoes. It's not that uncommon a practice. But a lot of commercial sauces, especially the low-grade industrial stuff that comes in big cans, use way too much, so that the sauce is in fact noticeably sweet, which I think is just wrong. I have an insatiable sweet tooth--I like to say I am a committed dessertatarian--but even I don't want sugar in everything. If everything is sweet, dessert is less of a treat.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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What Busboy said - Sugar works in some contexts but not in others. It can provide balance or enhance certain other flavors.

Plus, I'm happy to know that I wasn't the only person whatching the Godfather last night on SpikeTV for the 250th time.

Bill Russell

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What Busboy said - Sugar works in some contexts but not in others.  It can provide balance or enhance certain other flavors.

Plus, I'm happy to know that I wasn't the only person whatching the Godfather last night on SpikeTV for the 250th time.

Part II tonight!

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I don't want to sound like Marth Stewart here, but nothing mentioned here so far hasn't sugar-laden can't be made at home, with very little hassle, by anyone. Who cares if there's too much sugar in commercial tomato sauce -- I haven't eaten that since the college meal plan. Barbecue sauce? There's gotta be a hundreds of recipes in dozens of regional styles on the web, calling for between no sugar at all way too much. Asian food? A little tougher to make at home. And my cookbook is a little more heavy-handed with the stuff than jo-mel's probably more authenting cooking. But who eats Sweet and Sour Pork anymore, anyway? (I admit a weakness for General Tso's. I blame society).

As for what the masses consume -- I got other problems these days.

Like a friend with a limited set of social skills, sugar should, perhaps, be delicately deployed in public. But first and foremost, sugar is our friend and should be spoken of with kindness -- and no party is complete without it.

Devil's Dandruff indeed. :laugh:

On a parallel note, a French teacher of mine, passing along the wisdom of her Savoyard Grandmother, opined that every sweet dish should have a pinch of salt, and every savoury dish a pinch of sugar.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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This is something that has bothered me also. I much prefer the inroads of "savory" into the realm of dessert than that of "sweet" into the realm of savory. That is not to say that some sugar isn't useful as a balancing agent in many a dish. The key word there, though, is balancing. Too much food is being produced in a cloyingly sweet fashion, including at some better restaurants. This discussion has been covered somewhat in the thread on Cinc Sentits in The Spain and Portugal Forum.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I agree with Smarmy.

The really annoying part is how it is in all the processed foods.

Sure we can avoid them sometimes, but sometimes we have to give in to convenience for one reason or another.

It's just annoying that when we do, we also have to give in to all the additional sugars.

I would be interested in learning in what instances Asian food uses sugar in large quantities. It doesn't fit with what I know about Asian eating habits.

That said, it could be in those situations where the Asian-produced food is meant solely for the non-Asians.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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I agree with Smarmy. 

The really annoying part is how it is in all the processed foods.

Sure we can avoid them sometimes, but sometimes we have to give in to convenience for one reason or another.

It's just annoying that when we do, we also have to give in to all the additional sugars.

I would be interested in learning in what instances Asian food uses sugar in large quantities.  It doesn't fit with what I know about Asian eating habits.

That said, it could be in those situations where the Asian-produced food is meant solely for the non-Asians.

I just pulled a jar of Koon Chun Hoisin Sauce (made in Hong King) out of the pantry. Number one ingredient is sugar - and the calorie content just about matches that of sugar. Of course - when I use this stuff - I don't use much of it. Robyn

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I would be interested in learning in what instances Asian food uses sugar in large quantities.  It doesn't fit with what I know about Asian eating habits.

An interesting point to note: Many people in Asian cultures like to eat jelly with a spoon, as if it were a dessert, and not a condiment. I had a couple of boyfriends from China and Vietnam who would actually grab the jelly jar out of the fridge and just eat it. And if you visit Asian groceries frequently, you'll see many jelly desserts in individual serving packages, which are meant to be spooned up and eaten straight. And these aren't thick, chunky fruit preserves either.

Now, I don't find anything wrong with that, though I don't eat jelly that way. I really enjoy meeting people from different cultures and noticing the differences in eating habits. But this one seems sort of interesting, as it could make a trip to IHOP very advantageous, since there's a dispenser with a bounty of free dessert packets on every table.

And I'd say this is one of many examples where Asians certainly get their recommended daily allowance of sugar.

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article on the same idea ...
Statistics Canada has some numbers on how much we eat - about 23 teaspoons of added sugars everyday.
:shock:

I'd just like to point out that those are Canadian statistics. I can tell you that the food in the US is noticably sweeter than food in Canada.

According to the USDA, American sweetener consumption was 158 pounds per capita in 1999 (Reference). I think that works out to around 32 teaspoons per person per day (although I found another reference that said it was 40 teaspoons).

I've lived here for almost 6 years now and I'm on my second five-pound bag of sugar. I gave up eating a lot of foods when I moved here (bread-until the artisanal breads became available out here in the sticks, yogurt-until I started making my own, bacon, sausages, and more). All of them were given up because I couldn't stand the amount of sugar in them.

One good thing about the exposure the low-carb way of eating has gotten is that it's made people read the labels looking for sugar. I bet that, even if people don't keep eating low-carb, they might have dulled their sweet tooth and, in doing so, reduced their sugar intake.

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I agree with Smarmy. 

The really annoying part is how it is in all the processed foods.

Sure we can avoid them sometimes, but sometimes we have to give in to convenience for one reason or another.

It's just annoying that when we do, we also have to give in to all the additional sugars.

Don't eat them. I'm not a purist, but if you have to give in to processed foods (why? if you don't like them?) just lay back and think about England or something.

The problem is thinking about sugar as evil. It shows that you've been battered by the food police. Sugar is good, like gin. When sugar is mentioned, you should smile. If you are eating too much, you should cook more, and worry instead about the dearth of proper greens and well-aged beef.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Amen!

Apropos this topic, this afternoon I ran across one of the most singularly unappetizing applications of oversweetening I've ever met. I was at my local Trader Joe's picking up a bunch of chocolate products with which to gift various people, and picked up a tray of sushi rolls out of the fridge case as an afternoon snack.

"Wasabi Shrimp" rolls not only had no wasabi sharpness, but tasted as though they had been doused in corn syrup... not subtly sweet, but fully sugary. Uck! Echhh! Bad bad bad...

I know TJ's prepared products tend a little on the sweet side, but sushi? Egad!

Edited by cdh (log)

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I had to agree with Smarmy, at least in the beginning of this thread. I just hate, hate, hate canned salsa which has sugar in it. :angry: There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to put sugar in salsa. Why don't I make my own? It's WINTER. There are no good tasting tomatoes to be had.

Yes, a tiny dash of sugar helps a lot of concoctions, but we're talking here about sugar (and corn syrup) as a major ingredient. IMHO it's like adding too much salt to mask that lack of any other significant flavor.

It's the difference between chocolates which are sublime and those which are icky sweet. This is the reason I make my own chocolate truffles to give at Christmas, instead of handing out boxes of the commercial stuff. (In that regard, I found something called "Hazelnut Cream" at Whole Foods. It is from Italy and consists of hazelnuts and sugar. I made the best truffles from that than I ever have before. :biggrin: )

Since I stopped being a kid, low these many years ago (don't ask), I have come to believe that the less sugar the better, particularly in stuff that isn't dessert. :raz:

Edited by rosebud (log)
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Desserts are The Devil's flakey stuff behind the ears when you've been camping a few days.

I think it's very very difficult to find good ready-made commercial products.

In the end, more difficult and time consuming than just making what you like, how you like it.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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