Suzanne Litrel

Holier than Thou

In Uncategorized on September 12, 2012 at 2:43 am

It seems that every college has its share of . . . “interesting” folks who should have graduated oh, about thirty years earlier and moved on. You know who I’m talking about: they have a LOT to say, and they’ll be damned if they won’t share it with you… In my case, when I was an undergrad at the University of Michigan, there were two such folks, “Shakey Jake” and “Preacher Mike”

Now “Shakey” as he was often known, had a gui-TAR, sunglasses and always wore a suit and top hat. He grinned and strummed and always had something nice to say, whether you gave him a dollar or not. “Hey SMILEY!” he’d call out as I walked to Angell Hall. “How you DOIN?’” Of course I was smiling – his exuberance lifted me even as I was pitted against my peers in this competitive school (“30% of you Economics majors will fail, no matter what; less than 5% can hope for an A”). Ah, yes, indeed. “What’s shakin’, Shakey Jake?” and he would throw back his head and strum a few off-key chords and we both knew we could get through the day.

Preacher Mike, on the other hand, would rail at students as they were passing through the Diag on their way to class.

“SINNER!!!!!” He’d thunder, jumping on a concrete bench. “Harlot! – you, with the lipstick, Jezebel, oh REPENT!” Flecks of foam would gather at the corner of his mouth as he’d pick up steam. “Yea, repent, lest the gates of Heaven be closed against you for ALL ETERNITY!” Mostly he drew the scornful, the curious, the half-frightened, and the truly angry (who you callin’ harlot?). I lingered once for half a minute, curious, but wary of all that spittle.

So…yeah. You know, “Sugar is the Devil”. Last week I did a Google search on this very topic and came up with so much to support my claim – I saw sites from over five years ago preaching the poisons of the product. “Sugar is poison!” “Sugar KILLS!” “Sugar is a TOXIN!”

All right, all right already!

Does sugar have any health benefits? No. Does it create an acidic environment in your body, a breeding ground for bacteria? YES (starting to get a little worked up here). Doesn’t an overload – oh, more than a tsp/day –  encourage all sorts of terrible diseases, from diabetes to obesity (oh, c’mon, calm down!)? Isn’t the cultivation of cane sugar – transplanted from the east to the “New World” a stain on the history of humankind as more than 10 million souls endured a horrific forced migration for this purpose?

I’m not LI-sten-ING!

Ok, then. Here’s my challenge: can you actually go a day without a dessert . . . or anything sweetened by cane sugar? Can you stretch it to three days? Try a week, and then go take a bite of dessert. Note how you feel, physically. . . and note your mood ½ and hour after consuming the devil – OOPs – cane sugar.

But this is just a challenge – nah, forget it, just an idea. Your call. Your life. Whatever you think is best.

Because above else, I want you to keep on smilin’. I will. I don’t have all the answers, not even close. I only know what I know. I am not above it all. Good God, not even close.

So maybe, just maybe, you’ll come my way now and again.


Dessert is Optional, Family is Not

In Family on August 6, 2012 at 7:02 pm


And with that, the four kids, age 12-18, shot right to the kitchen island, which had been doubling as a serving station this Sunday dinner. My own son did a near vertical leap off the living room couch as he stalked his sugary prey. I hadn’t seen him move so fast since his last fencing bout – alas, more than a few months ago as he prepares to buckle down for college.

Now this wasn’t an ordinary scramble for treats. No, this was a hell-for-leather dash to dessert with well-executed stops at the counter as the kids pulled up and feigned indifference. At their age, it’s much ado about appearances as the cousins cast a cool eye towards the treats.

Ah, yes, I served sugar at the end of a meal. Last year, my nephew Joseph, a true foodie and at age fifteen, a gifted cook, gave me a one-pound bag of sugar for Christmas. This little blog had become something of Litrel family lore – here goes Suzanne again – ! I had long been the weird one out – as a hard-core runner, sometime fencer, granola-making, organic-touting, vegemaniac. After 21 years as a Litrel, I’ve mellowed somewhat (mostly my mouth)  and other members of the pack have been rethinking their food choices. So in a burst of largesse, I purchased exactly five custom made cupcakes.

For twelve family members.

Now, these were really, truly, specialty cupcakes. And I got them at the local farmer’s market, after trudging a mile there and bag with my obliging husband. How could I not buy treats right next to the  stand where we just purchased about twenty pounds of produce? I could feel the young woman’s eyes boring right into my canvas tote. Surely there was room for dessert? So after a brief chat about family and kids and gluten and lemon curd (don’t ask), I forked over ten dollars for five cupcakes and home we went, caramel, lemon meringue, Tiramisu, blueberry and cookies’n cream cupcakes burning a deep hole in my bag.

As soon as we got home, I scrawled a warning on the box: “DO NOT TOUCH. SUNDAY DESSERT.” Then I stuck the whole thing in the freezer, where my two kids and Joey (who spent the night) cast a mournful eye for the rest of the day; there were no other  sweets save fruit in the house.

Since we moved to Woodstock, GA, I’m back to pretending I’m a hearty Italian peasant (the last time was when I read Under the Tuscan Sun).  That might be laughable, perhaps because I’ve always been pretty scrawny. However, as mentioned in earlier posts, I did pick up on the ways of my Nonna, who instructed me in the basics of northern Italian cooking. And the Segalini Sunday dinner experience included much in the way of vegetables – usually whatever was on hand was roasted, and there was always a salad – AFTER the main meal, mind you, NEVER before. Dessert was scant to nonexistent: figs from Nonno’s tree in the back of their house in Astoria, Queens, and some hard cheese. But whatever was served, was done so with art, as Nonno had been a waiter in some of New York city’s finest Italian restaurants. On occasion, we’d have strawberries in brandy – never with whipped cream! And we’d talk the whole afternoon through – dinner was usually a three-hour process. My children would play in the small living room just off the kitchen, and Chris, my grandparents and I would talk politics and the past.

My grandparents have since passed on, having led very long, healthy lives. Yesterday, we served the second of our Sunday dinners since joining the rest of my husband’s family down south, and it was with a tacit nod to my grandparents that we tied on our aprons, and got to work – antipasti, baked ziti, grilled vegetables and chicken, salad and a decidedly non-Italian garlic bread that I made especially for the kids.We took our time eating and talking, and the kids scattered ’round the house while their grandparents and parents lingered at the table.

We were reunited as a group, however, when I put out dessert: I had frozen the cupcakes, sliced thin and presented on a pretty ceramic platter so we could all gather ’round for a taste.

The best part? That what ensued after my hark to the sweets wasn’t a wolfing down of the final course. No – a discussion of flavors, a comparison…one or two adults abstained, but we made coffee and were together for an hour more. I hope we’ve started a Sunday tradition …loose, easy afternoon of hearty, healthy food and talk. Dessert? I’d like to think it wasn’t an issue, just as in my grandparent’s house. The kids seemed fine, even mellow after dinner. Perhaps they got what’s important (to me, anyway) : that we were all together, even for a short while. Now that’s a rich treat, indeed.

Because the doctor says so!

In Uncategorized on May 31, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Earlier this year, a Harvard study linked sugar consumption to cancer. Ah,  the  sweet satisfaction of “toldja so!”

Ah, gotta watch my inner  – ok, outer – New York. In the clip below, I think Dr. Gupta is a bit more polished and a little less dramatic in his delivery of this blog’s gospel.

So maybe sugar isn’t quite the devil. According to Dr, Gupta, sugar is . . POISON!;contentBody


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