Wednesday, February 25, 2009

No More Corn Syrup

Today, I have given up corn syrup. Who knows for how long exactly.

For some time, I have been thinking about the experiment of completely avoiding corn syrup.

It would be an interesting experiment. Corn syrup is in EVERYTHING in America. If it is sweet, sticky, gelatinous, saucy, or any way delicious, it mostly has liquid corn sugar in there.

Now I am not the type of person who is any good at doing things until they either HAVE to be done, or are so EPIC that they demand attention all to them selves. In other words, I am no good at just "having a little less sugar in my diet".

Noooooo. Just not the way I work. So, NO CORN SYRUP WHATSOEVER it is.

Originally, I was thinking 30 Days. One solid month of avoiding the genetically-modified sweetness, would break me of the habit. That is, until I started thinking about Lent.

Now, I was NOT raised Orthodox Christian, but I have always loved the IDEA of giving something up to make you appreciate it that much more. We could all do a little more inner thinking about how good we really have it. I knew that Lent was coming up, and I really knew very little about it.

So, I did some basic research about it - when it starts, when it ends, etc. What I was shocked at was that Lent is 46 days! That's right - the 40 Days we always here about is an inside joke! Apparently, Sunday already was God's day, so that doesn't count. So, Lent is the 40 days before Easter, NOT INCLUDING SUNDAYS!

Great. This just took my commitment up from 30 days to 46......[grumble]
However, I now have a great excuse for when people question my unusual eating habits.

Instead of a long explanation about my experiment and how corn syrup is in everything and how you almost can not get NON-genetically-modified corn in this country and how obese americans are because of their sugar addiction..... [deep breath] I can not just say, "It's for Lent".

So for Lent it is. I am writing this now the first night of the first day of Lent, and I can tell you it's an adventure already.

This morning, I attended a seminar on Farmland Preservation and Land Use issues. The event included coffee and rolls in the morning, and lunch at noon.
Stumbling into the event (I usually stumble until about 10:30 or so... not much of a morning person) I found the muffin voted least likely to contain corn syrup, grabbed it, then found my seat.
The conference was very interesting. Lunch rolled around, and sandwiches, chips, and cookies were brought in. Hmmm... Do cookies have corn syrup in them? I don't know - without an ingredient list, I pretty much can't tell. What about the mayo and mustard on the sandwiches? I was hungry, and there really weren't any other food options handy, so I dug in.

Earlier in the morning, the MC also announced that one of the dairy farmers participating in the event had brought in a cooler of milk. That sounded good - solve thirst, and support local farming. I was half-way through my second gulp of a chocolate milk "chug" when it hit me. CHOCOLATE MILK. Sure enough, as soon as my lips left the bottle, I could read "high-fructose corn syrup" as the second ingredient.

I was not off to a good start for my no corn syrup diet! Well, I am still getting into the swing of it. Next time I will be ready.

My wife and I go out to dinner on a fairly regular basis, mid-week, to a local family restaurant we like. Wednesday or Thursday nights are never busy, and it's a fun way to pep up the doldrums of the work week.

When she got home tonight, she definately had that look of "I don't want to cook - let's go out."

So off we went to the restaurant. In her car, it was already warmed up. (Not in my electric car - it is currently jacked up in my driveway with the springs missing, as I figure out how to boost the suspension.)

We sat ourselves down at our favorite corner booth.
"Just get the gyro..." she says. We have this on-going conversation as to whether or not try new things at a restaurant, and possibly be disappointed, or to stick with something we know and love. I happen to like the gyro. She likes the tacos. We both love the chicken dumpling soup. The soup comes with everything. Go ahead, order soup... you will get soup with it.

Hmm - a gyro. No corn syrup in that. Oh wait. It has sauce. Grrrrr! So many sauces have corn syrup! In my mind, I am already ordering the fish fry.

When our waitress comes, I explain that I have given up corn syrup for Lent. How corn syrup is everywhere, and ask if they buy their cucumber sauce, or if they make it themselves. Here's where the good home-style cooking part comes in. They actually DO make their own gyro sauce from scratch! No corn syrup in there at all!

I order the gyro.

After a delicious bowl of chicken dumpling soup, our dinners arrive.
My gyro plate comes with french fries, and the waitress informs me that "you won't be needing ketchup then, will you?"

The thing is, I like french fries. I like them with ketchup. Ketchup has TONS of corn syrup in it. But I was thinking way ahead on this one. I deftly pull a bottle of MY OWN KETCHUP from my coat pocket. And not a little bottle. A full-sized squeeze bottle of Organic Ketchup which I had slipped into my coat pocket before leaving home.

Both the waitress and my wife laugh at me. They both already know I am weird. The waitress has seen us in there before with our Tupperware, so that we don't need one more foam "To-Go" container to dump in a landfill, and my wife knew what she was in for before she married me.

Now I am feeling pretty clever about myself. My fore-planning with the ketchup keeps me pleased through dinner as I munch on my lamb-filled flatbread and fries.

Another thing I like about this restaurant is that many of the dinners include dessert. Sweet desserts. Sweet STICKY desserts. D'oh! My mind races down the list of "house-desserts":
House Cake with strawberry filling
Ice Cream
Rice pudding

I'm pretty sure every one of those has corn syrup.

Sigh. No dessert for me, whether it's included or not.

When the waitress comes around again, I inquire if either of the dinners include dessert. They don't. I ordered the gyro sandwich, not the gyro dinner. My wife ordered something different from the usual, so no dessert there either.

Now, I am fixated on what sweets DON'T have corn syrup in them.

I step over to the cash register to pay. On the counter is a glass jar of mints. I reflexively lift the lid, then pause a moment, and set the lid back down. The waitress looks at me as she hands me the receipt.
Me "Now you are starting to get it?"
Her. "Yep"

I leave the restaurant mint-less, but successful.

Of course, I now can't get dessert out of my mind, and we swing past the grocery store.
My wife tells me that she thought there was an "all-natural" brand of ice cream that did NOT have corn syrup.
We go down the ice cream isle. Yes, it is an entire isle. We are in Wisconsin, the Dairy State, and even though California now has dairy farms well in excess of our own, you still can't beat Wisconsin for ice cream consumption.

Sure enough - there it is. Breyers All Natural. Not even a HINT of corn syrup on the ingredient list. I compare it to the label on another carton. Not only does the corn-syrup-free box have a list HALF as long, but I can also pronounce every ingredient on it.

I grab a carton of mint chocolate chip. The ice cream is white, not artificially green. I love it.

Well, not too bad of a day for a corn syrup-free lifestyle. I screwed up with the chocolate milk early in the day, but I was feeling pretty good about Organic Ketchup, and Natural Ice Cream.

Now what happens when I want a Rum&Coke, or a margarita? Neither of those are going to work. Looks like I will have some more planning and investigating to go before me as I continue to go corn-syrup-free.


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