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Archive for May, 2010

  • Day 74: A Year Without Candy Goes to Cannes

    Date: 2010.05.12 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    I was among the many who had a tough time getting to today’s opening of the 63rd Cannes Film Festival. Last week’s freakish storm with 18-foot waves that battered restaurants along the Cannes seafront capped off months of annoying English-type weather on the Cote d’Azur. Even worse, the remains of the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland re-wafted over Europe this past weekend, closing Nice Airport for a day and disrupting flights from all over.

    One Los Angeles film critic had to take two planes, two trains and a bus to get here. Paging John Candy! Other friends of mine reported 10 to 12 hour flights from JFK (usually takes only seven to eight hours) because the planes had to “detour” around the volcash. Leslie Nielsen on line one!

    I only had to drive the 22 miles west from Nice to Cannes, yet I inexplicably zoned out and drove right past the Cannes exit. Saw a bit of scenic Frejus before turning around and heading back to Cannes. Good thing I didn’t space completely and drive all the way to Ikea in Toulon. (Though the cafeteria there does serve a delicious Swedish lunch.) If this is Wednesday, it must be Belgium?

    But we are reporters in the timeless war zone of the Cannes Film Festival and we will fight our way to the front (the Palais), pick up our badges and prepare to do battle. I’ve already walked into the wrong queue twice in a scant two hours, the familiar and scornful Non, madame, pas ici dripping from the lips of the army of Cannes gatekeepers.

    And after a lengthy respite from the rigors of entertainment reporting (and it is a snakepit) I feel myself adapting with frightening swiftness. I, too, am buzzing around the Palais and the Croisette with the same air of being terribly busy and officious self-importance.

    However, the real me is less introspective. Here’s what’s on my mind on Day One:

    1. Tim Burton reminds me of Dolly Parton. They both have such an obviously contrived look. Dolly, actually one of the most talented songwriters and gifted performers on the planet, will not, no matter what, give up her wigs and garish makeup and see-through stiletto heels. Burton, who’s the Cannes jury president this year, looks as if he must have a stylist with him at all times to maintain his wildly frizzy hair and two-day old growth of beard so everyone knows he is no poseur but a true artiste.

    2. I’m already missing the megawattage of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, festival mainstays, who aren’t coming this year and thus making my job harder. Shia LeBeauf and Carey Mulligan are the new It Couple but I know Brangelina and they are no Brangelina.

    3. I came armed today with almonds and raisins and water. But there is a Haagen-Dazs stand directly opposite the Palais where every other year I’ve enjoyed a scoop of pralines and cream. It does give a certain frisson of energy every day. Can almonds and raisins take its place? Hope so…..

  • Day 72: My Friend Can’t Read My Blog Because of the Pictures!

    Date: 2010.05.10 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 1

    Oops!   A major flaw has been discovered in My Year Without Candy.  My friend M. (haven’t asked her yet if I can ID her) told me today she can’t look at my blog because there are so many pictures of candy and desserts!   M. has been off almost ALL sugar for more than a year and a half or maybe even two years.

    But because sugar is a major trigger for her, the pictures I post (repeatedly, I’m afraid) of the foodstuff that for the sake of this one post dare not speak its name are too dangerous to look at. So one less reader!

    I’ve placed the above apple in this post in honor of M.  Maybe she’ll at least be able to read this post…

    It’s true, my fabulous friend Andi, the reknowned Parisian illustratrice, who I already wrote about here, told me that she’s not even a sweetfreak but my blog sometimes made her go out and buy some c—y.

    So – my ambivalence is laid bare.  I sort of hoped originally that I’d become an anti-sugar crusader, a Piped Piper of renouncing c—y and d—ert.   But my mixed emotions have obviously resulted in a mixed message blog.  Is c—y like a bad boyfriend I can’t give up?

    Am I like porn star Jenna Jameson returning to Tito Ortiz after he allegedly beat her ass (yes I read TMZ when I should be reading Proust) and saying they’re going to work it out?

    But what can you do?  It’s how I feel.  For me, talking about sweet things and posting images of them seem to be the next best thing to eating them.

    So maybe that makes me a pretender and I won’t stay the course the way M. has.  She also lost 40 pounds by the way and looks fantastic.

    M. is going to be the subject of an upcoming interview here about how one day she was in the throes of a sugar and eating addiction and the next day went home and threw every bad thing out of her house and just white-knuckled it into abstinence.

    My shero!


  • Day 70/71: A Sugar-Free Mother’s Day

    Date: 2010.05.08 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 4

    I’m resisting the temptation to write anything except a factual post today about my mother (on the far left, with her sisters) – and my memories stemming from our mutual love of sweet things. We had different tastes; she loved dark chocolate, like a European.  I’m a milk chocolate fan.

    The fact that she died in 2008 looms over writing about her but this is a no-sentiment zone today. I’m dispensing with the sugary stuff in my head as I have in my life.

    Also, a shout-out to Maria Shriver whose lovely eulogy to her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died almost a year after my mother, made my friends realize there was someone else in the world over the age of 2 who still called her mother “Mummy.”  It’s a New England thing.

    My mother, Louise, was no super-mother like Eunice Shriver but she was no slouch. She was a Vassar graduate, a reporter for newspapers and UPI and had her own radio show. But she had kids and eventually chose a more mother-friendly career in teaching.  She didn’t have the temperament for a major-league career and she knew it.  She liked her home, plants, cooking, reading and traveling.

    Also, she was tough and took no prisoners, which makes it hard to build a career, with all its requisite ring-kissing.  One day pretty late in life when she was mad at me about something, she growled like a prizefighter,  ”I’m not going to take this lying down.”

    My mother loved sweets but, unlike me, in moderation. She didn’t have an addictive personality.  She rarely had a glass of wine except when she threw her little dinner parties.

    We also had almost nothing in our medicine cabinet except aspirin. My mother was rarely sick so we never even had that over-the-counter stuff other people have, like Pepto-Bismol, or nighttime “cold relief” medicine.

    My mother’s only addiction was reading, which she did in an armchair in the living room. It was the last thing I got rid of in her house after she died; it had an imprint of her upper body on the left side of the chair.

    My grandmother also loved candy – in moderation.  However, it was clear early on I was not Ms. Moderate – at least with sweets.

    One of my earliest memories is of riding my bike to to buy only-in-New England candies like Necco Wafers, Sky Bars and Boyle’s Mallo Cups.

    My mother figured out early that I liked candy a bit too much.  Ours was not a household where you could put out a dish of Brach’s milk chocolate stars in the living room and hope there’d be any left by nightfall.

    So my mother would buy candy for the family – and hide the bags from me because she knew I’d gobble the contents right up.  I’d hunt for them to no avail.

    It’s a fact is that when your mother dies, that’s the end of eating her desserts.  I’ve made some of them from her recipes but it’s like when I blow out my own hair instead of going to a hairdresser.  It’s never quite as good.

    She made excellent lemon meringue pie with a creamy, not Jello-y, filling that I have never seen made by anyone but her.  I don’t even like regular lemon meringue pie.

    The cake I asked her for most often was a very simple vanilla cake with mocha icing.  We had a cake cookbook with pictures of novelty cakes – a hat cake, an igloo cake etc. – and I chose one every year for her to bake on my birthday.

    She made excellent chocolate chip cookies with toffee bits.  She made a blueberry pie with blueberries she and her friend Charlene picked at a nearby park.

    She also had the simplest fudge recipe in the galaxy – which was made by mixing white sugar, butter, unsweetened baking chocolate, milk and a dollop of vanilla in a saucepan on a stove.  Then she’d pour the mixture into a glass pie dish and it would harden.

    I preferred downing it while it was simmering on the stovetop. In fact I have a scar (fudge war wound) on my hand below my left thumb from where a scalding spoonful dripped down.

    She wasn’t fanatical about sweets but loved dark chocolate peppermint patties and nonpareils (at left.)

    She spent the last months of her life in a nursing home, the result of a bad fall that accelerated the personality-altering dementia I didn’t even realize she had.

    I’d buy her favorite dark chocolate molasses chips down the street from the nursing home in our hometown at Stowaway Sweets, a candy shop which counted Katharine Hepburn among its clients.

    Very strangely, my mother and I had a lot of fun at the nursing home – especially during mealtime. This makes no sense, because it’s supposed to be depressing to see your strong, independent mother rendered relatively helpless and drugged up.

    I think it was because she was so funny.  She never lost her killer sense of humor and never forgot who I was (I specifically asked her not to.)  Nor did she lose her lumberjack-style appetite, at least around me, which always cracked me up because she was so small compared to me.

    We’d joke together in the dining room and I’d marvel at how much food she’d put away – especially dessert. Three weeks before she died she’d always ask me to get her a second cup of the strawberry ice cream at dinner and finish every last trace of it.  I’d peer inside the bare cup after she was done and look at her incredulously.

    I rarely saw other nursing home residents with their relatives but when they were there, they looked grim and ignored me and my mother.  I understood, but it was almost as if we were going against the rules of life by joking and laughing, like if your parent or spouse is in a nursing home you have to be morose.

    As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that when it came to the end, my mother was different from me.  There was something salty she loved even more than candy.

    During my last visit with her, before I had to return to France, we talked about everything. She had a kind of dementia that is increasingly common; she was both very out of it, declining rapidly, and yet sometimes knew exactly what was going on.

    At one point, I told her that it was OK if she wanted to go. She didn’t have to stay on my account or anyone else’s if she didn’t want to. I knew it wasn’t any life for her.  I also knew that while she was very much her own person, she sometimes relied on me for what she called “sensible advice.”

    She was not someone who liked being trapped.  Once we were on a boring, rainy vacation with friends of hers in Canada.  My mother wasn’t having a good time so she cut the trip short by taking me and jumping on a plane to go back home. She didn’t think twice or worry about how it might look.

    So I told her that she could do whatever she wanted – but I let her know there was a helicopter waiting on the roof of the nursing home to take her away when she was ready.

    This is also factual. I could see the helicopter on the roof very clearly in my mind.  I told her the helicopter would be loaded with Cheez-Its, which in fact were her favorite food.  Even more than the sweet stuff.

  • Day 69: Fake It Till You Make It?

    Date: 2010.05.07 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

    I hit upon another scheme in my ongoing David (me) versus Goliath (the candy and dessert industrial-complex) on the plane back from Singapore last week when the flight attendant offered me an after-dinner dish of chocolates.

    “No thanks,” I told her breezily. “I don’t care for sweets.”

    For a few moments I reveled in my new fake identity – someone for whom chocolate holds no interest.   (I’ve met a few of these people, rare birds who profess not to have sweet teeth, and some of them may in fact be telling the truth.)

    I even felt smug for a minute – until I remembered I was lying to the flight attendant and am in fact not a person who doesn’t like chocolate.

    But I felt a power and energy radiating back from what I projected onto the flight attendant.  I bought myself a shot of superiority by putting my lie onto her.  “Lie” of course sounds so negative in this situation – and it’s possible, isn’t it, that by the very act of lying I could one day turn into a person who doesn’t like chocolate.

    Does faking it work when you’re trying to give up sugar?  Does it work in life, too?  I say yes – and no.

    I’m a big fan of being authentic, although I’m all too aware it may just be a nice label for someone who’d rather be just be silly and have fun than exercise a lot of tiresome self-discipline.

    As my life has gone on, I’ve learned the value of being one of those people who puts on their game face every morning and tells the world they are doing just great. Whether they are or not.

    It’s too easy to call it phony.  It’s more complicated and, I think, strategic than that. The energy they get from convincing other people (and themselves) they got it goin’ on and all is OK make their success and sanguinity real. And in the competition of life, you’ve got to watch out for these people because when you believe their game, you start to doubt yours.

    Also, these people accomplish a lot. And probably aren’t sugar addicts.

    I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill positive people.  I mean the real masters, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who literally create their environment by sheer force of will and refuse to be mere reactors in life like the rest of us.

    According to the “addictionary,” the phrase “fake it till you make it” comes from the 12-step program where newcomers are advised to act “as if” when trying to succeed at new, healthier behaviors.   Ideally, if you adhere in language and action to what you want to be,  you eventually morph into that which you strive to be.

    As Yoda said: “Do or do not… there is no try.”

    I know someone (midway between acquaintance and friend) who has had a tremendous amount of success in her field, after having a very tough childhood.  I haven’t spoken to her lately but she is another master of the art – if more subtle than Schwarzenegger and not as well-known.

    It wasn’t possible to have a conversation with her in which she allowed that her life was anything but fantastic.  That may sound obnoxious and she is not at all obnoxious. She’s a great person with excellent values. She is certainly nicer than I am.

    But I could never get to know her except on a very superficial level because I’d always run into this wall of how great she was doing.

    I will never forget one day more than five years ago when we were talking on the phone and she was on the verge of some truly amazing success.

    She began the conversation in a low, worried voice that was not at all like her.

    “I am so freaked out,” she said.

    I perked right up when I heard that.  She’s finally cracked a bit, I thought.  We’re going to bond over some problem she’s having.  The balance of power will be even between us.

    “What’s going on?” I asked, hopefully.

    She sighed.

    “I just can’t believe how many great things are happening to me,” she said. “I’m so blessed but it’s freaking me out.”

    Yep. You guessed it.

    I got taken once again.

    I’m sick of being so fucking authentic.


  • Day 67: My Latest Scheme to Combat Sugar Cravings

    Date: 2010.05.04 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 2

    While in Singapore last week, I ditched high-priced Orchard Road for the delights of Mustafa, a Walmart-meets-Costco located in the funky (hate that word) Little India section of the city. Let’s put it this way, you could spend several days in the watch section alone.

    Watches, schmatches.  (Wait, does that rhyme or not?)

    Anyway, all I bought in Mustafa was incredibly boring stuff like vitamins and Tiger Balm. I was very excited to spot a bottle labeled with the very exotic name “Kordel’s Sugar Control” – and snapped up two.  I am an incurable optimist and always convinced that the solution to my problem du jour is right around the corner.

    The bottle says: “Kordel’s Sugar Control contains the effective combination of two patented organic minerals, ChromeMate® and OptiZinc® and co-nutrients for normalise glucose metabolism.”

    I went through a chromium phase ages ago – that’s like Cure for Sugar Addiction 101. I don’t remember it making a huge difference although maybe I didn’t take it for long enough.  I have a friend down the road in Antibes who swears by some chromium and something concoction.

    I popped a Sugar Control tablet today.  We’ll see if I start craving brussel sprouts tomorrow.  In the meantime here’s an article about chromium and sugar addiction from that you can read about it here.

  • Day 66: Back from the Temptations of the Exotic East

    Date: 2010.05.03 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 3

    This morning, back in France, I made myself get on the scale.  Usually I only use my scale when I think I’m losing weight, the better to motivate myself. If I’ve eaten a lot and gained weight, I avoid the scale which allows me to not face reality.

    However, I’m now more into confronting reality whenever possible – and then taking action. Painful at first, then the action part helps relieve whatever bad news I had to face.  This morning, I expected the worst.  And it was not because I succumbed to the incredible temptations in Singapore.

    I wasn’t blogging much while I was there because I needed to conserve all my energy to resist the incredible number of American-style desserts that are EVERYWHERE there.

    Anyway, I lost half a pound during a week of zero exercise and constant eating in Singapore.  WTF?  At home I don’t eat a lot and am an avid hiker, biker, kayaker etc. and there are still weeks when I inexplicably gain weight or can’t lose it.  Is there something in the water in Singapore?

    As some readers know, I ate a banana tempura one night (banana fried in batter with no sugar) in Singapore but was persuaded to dip a millimeter of the banana in a green sweet sauce.  One reader called that a slip so massive that I should restart my entire Year Without Candy.  I don’t think so.

    Other than that, I had nothing sweet. It was especially difficult because everyone you meet in Singapore eats heartily of the fantastic local fare.  Then they load up on dessert – and don’t seem to gain a pound!  Again, the water??

    I had lunch with two local friends at PS Cafe one day.  Afterward we walked over to this long bar where huge cakes and pies were displayed and they both ordered some.  The desserts were served as huge hunks on their plates. Both these people are Singoporean and sylph-like.

    Below are some photos of the PS Cafe desserts:

    It was bad enough that so many local restaurants serve mouthwatering and super-size versions of the kind of desserts you find at one of my favorite places: an American bake sale.

    Add that to all the American coffee bar and dessert chains – Mrs. Fields Cookies, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Starbucks (with its blowout pastries) and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf etc. and then TRIPLE that with all sorts of innovative little Singaporean dessert places pictured below.  My new goal:  return to Singapore when/if I go back on desserts!

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This American candy addict/journalist in France writes about quitting candy – and all desserts – for at least one year beginning Feb. 28, 2010. Follow my progress – or relapses – as I delete candy corn, moelleux au chocolat, peppermint patties, Carambars, tarte tatin, After Eights, crème brûlée, Nutella, tapioca pudding, mint chocolate chip ice cream, Haribo Polkas, M & Ms and more from my life. Learn about the evils of white sugar and its effects on mood and health from my interviews with experts and friends! Let the sugar fog lift!

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