Gooey, chocolatey, rich, deep dark brownies. I’d even make a cream cheese center for them. It was written. Consider it already decided.
I scoured the Internet looking for an adequate recipe that I could manipulate, and eventually found one that I’d stored away for the future. I wrote down the ingredients, and took off jogging toward the grocery store to snatch up what I’d need.
Never mind the fact that I was hitting the grocery store on Christmas Eve, and never mind the fact that I spent at least half of my time preparing to elbow little old angry ornery people who didn’t believe that common courtesy includes not blocking the entire center aisleway because they want to decide on whether or not to buy some darn maraschino cherries. Never mind that. Christmas was coming, and I was baking brownies.
I got home, put away the groceries, and went on about my day… until, oh, somewhere around 7PM. Figuring I’d get a head start on the Christmas cooking, I got on with the dicing, chopping, marinating… and then, I saw it. The dark chocolate I’d purchased for the brownie recipe. I let out a long, deep sigh… grabbed my mixing bowl… and got to work.
At first, the entire experience was exciting! Melt the dark chocolate in with the butter. I love to bake, so this was heavenly for me. Who wouldn’t enjoy making something awesome with real ingredients?
But then… it started to become a little suspect. The amount of butter was… troubling. Then… we got to the kicker: two cups of sugar?! Two cups of sugar? Suppose I’d actually baked a recipe with that much sugar in it. Who, in this household, was going to eat it? Me?!
Then I got to the cream cheese center… and I couldn’t even bear it at this point. Another half-cup of sugar. What on Earth? Is this what it takes to make a delicious batch of brownies? They have to be full of that sugar, fat and salt trio? For real?
At this point… I was just curious. I layered the brownies and the creamy cheese center in the baking pan. After staring at the pan for a while, I slid it into the oven and waited… patiently.
Too patiently, almost.
I considered what I’d find once the brownies were finished. Would I go flying back into my sugar addiction? Would they taste disgusting to me? Would I wind up trying to swallow the pan whole like we see in all those teenage girl movies? I just wanted to know… how would this play out?
The brownies finished, and I grabbed the pan out. They looked… like brownies. Nothing magical about ’em at all. I grabbed the spatula, chopped a chunk out of the corner, and lifted it out. I blew on it, slid it into my mouth and… nothing.
That’s right. Nothing.
Don’t get me wrong. They were absolutely delicious… but I think the thing that made “brownies” such a “golden standard” for deliciousness and amazement and “Mmmmmmm” for me was gone. The emotional attachment to food, the ability to crave those brownies and that feeling they gave me, was gone. The kind of euphoria that comes from a well-made dessert was no longer attainable. It just wasn’t happening for me.
For years, I used to overindulge on cheaply made brownies. I used to act a complete and utter fool with a good box of individually-wrapped brownies in private. Now? Nothing.
I thought long and hard about this, as I stared at the pan of brownies… with no desire to dig in the way I used to. Did that mean that the problem was how I used to eat them? My response to baked goods was that unnatural?
Or was it the fact that I took great pains to make sure that my ingredients had limited additives and preservatives? Limited unnatural interference? You know, the stuff that food manufacturers do to their food to make it “irresistable?” I had made a delicious brownie… and it was, in fact, resistable. This was new… it was also frightening.
So… in making the brownies, was I expecting the unnatural reaction that I’d get from, say, a brownie filled with high fructose corn syrup? A brownie mixed in a giant robot machine with someone flipping the dials to get the chemical combinations just right so that I’d never be able to put it down?
And what did my reaction mean for my sugar addiction? I’ll never proclaim that I’ve completely beaten it – I question whether or not that’s possible – but the fact that I wasn’t experiencing that euphoric feeling in response to that bite? How I just bit into it… appreciated the taste… and was over it? Was I on my way back to a balanced appreciation of sugar?
I can do that? I guess so. What a Christmas gift to myself – knowing that I had, in fact, come farther in my journey than I thought. Knowing that I was one step closer to just feeling completely free. And by “free,” I mean “not pacing and worrying about the potential for my falling back into my bad habits every time I taste something with even a hint of sugar in it.”
I wound up putting the brownies in the fridge, and leaving them there. The next day, after Christmas dinner, I offered my daughter one… but she was actually uninterested. Instead, she reached for a mango and asked me to cut it. I peeled the skin, sliced thin strips off of it and handed them to her on a saucer. The rest, I killed it myself.
No more brownies… but mangoes? I think I could get addicted to those.