Thoughts on Sugar + Maple Processing + Seasonal and Local Eating

Welcome to my food blog.

Loved ones have been asking me to create one for years. The idea of capturing the magic within my kitchen cauldron has always been alluring. But this blog’s purpose is more than a depiction of my blessed recipes; it’s a vision of my life within the vortex of the Hudson Valley. Along the Shawangunk Ridge live a hub of incredible folk who live honestly. We tap our maples, we make our mead, we ferment our kraut. I hope to depict within these entries a glimpse into the reality of life as it is. Perhaps it will encourage others to live in honor of the land, or at least to learn a little more about sustainable living without the green wash.

Tree Juice.

Each full moon in March we celebrate as the sap moon. Northeast mountain dwellers tap the maple trees of the land, producing maple water. When the nights are below freezing and the days are above, sap drips out of the trees and into buckets.

Maple water is the northeastern version of coconut water, filled with electrolytes and vital life force of the trees. Drinking a sip of maple water sparks up the body quite unlike any other nectar I know. 40 gallons of maple water, when boiled down, makes 1 gallon of maple syrup. Hence the sacredness of this sap, our source of sweetener, localized and pure.

Sweet Talk.

Traditionally, sweet treats have been truly savored and eaten very rarely. Remember how much maple sap boils down into syrup, and you can truly understand its sacredness. When our country began importing cane sugar from the Caribbean islands, thousands of slaves were exploited, and countless lives were lost within the process. Many people protested the import of these refined sugars. As written in an 1803 Farmers Almanac: “Prepare for making maple sugar, which is more pleasant and patriotic than that ground by the hand of slavery, boiled down by the heat of misery.” However, as much of our country’s food has continued to be sourced from far away, there is presently a lack of awareness around how and where our food comes from before it goes into our bodies.

The high intake of refined sugars have paralleled the rise of chronic inflammatory and degenerative diseases including osteoporosis, arthritis and diabetes. Intestinal fungal growths such as candida can also occur, which have been linked to cancer. Refined sugars act as a drug within our bodies, leading to addiction.

These truths are difficult to absorb because sugar is such a part of our lives, and we have a lot of memories attached to it. We celebrate our birthdays with cake, we cry over breakups with a pint of ice cream, and we leave Santa cookies and milk. So many of our comfort memories speak visions of sugar between their lines. And if this is so, how do we detach from the vicious cycle of sugar intoxication which so many of us are familiar with?

When eating sweets, mindfulness is key. When we savor every morsel, when we put the fork down between bites, when we let chocolate melt in our mouth, we truly don’t need as much.

Paying attention to when we are triggered to eat sweets is crucial. As you head for the cookies, take a moment to ask yourself how you are feeling. Are you stressed? Do you need a moment of pause? Consider nourishing the emotions lying underneath the urge to eat the sweet. Go ahead, take a breath to relieve the stress. Go for a brief walk, write in your journal. You’ll notice the craving lies deeper than the food itself. The urge to treat the symptom won’t be so strong anymore, because the underlying cause is being addressed.

When we do make sweet treats, using maple syrup, raw honey, molasses or fruit purees, rather than over proceeded refined sweeteners such as white sugar or corn syrup, gives our bodies nutrients and minerals rather than empty calories. As the snow melts away, let us bask in the sweetness of life, and let the dessert follow, rather than lead, the pleasure experience.

All photos within this post taken by Julianna Blizzard.

Elizabeth Gross