In the last decade or so, my food life has altered considerably, and I’m always reminded of that fact every time I visit my mum’s. Last month’s visit was no different.
Her vegetable sauce is devoid of the tomato taste I’m now accustomed to in efo riro. My palate waits for the fish and tomato flavour in her fried beans dish when I know there won’t be any because I didn’t cook it. White rice and red stew feature constantly any time rice is the food of choice while that combo begs for a place in my kitchen most of the time. Eggs are always a mix of cream and red (pepper & tomatoes) colours; mine are cream, white and green (green pepper) with the taste of paprika, garlic and Knorr seasoning. All of these (and other meals, habits of hers) I can stand, it’s the cubed – sugar she still uses as a sweetener that I am yet to come to terms with. After all these years.
I grew up with them and still see them every time at her house. She doesn’t seem to trust its easily–dissolving sister – the granulated kind. Maybe because there is a tendency to take more than is needed or that a relative jokingly commented about it being mixed with other substances to reduce its potency and increase its quantity or it’s just her genuine love for that particular kind and the brand that makes it. St. Louis should begin to give her a percentage of its profits if that’s the case. Whatever her reasons, we’re stuck with them whenever we are in her house, and every time I use them to sweeten anything, I’m convinced that I made the right choice using the granulated kind.
The first time a nephew of mine saw them, he yelled: ‘Marshmallow!’ bringing a smile to my face and his mum’s. But nothing prepared me for Chairman’s reaction when he saw them (and realized what they were) for the first time too last year. His excitement was infectious; his sister caught on too. Perhaps to humour him because she knew what they were and had known for a while. He insisted on holding them in his little palm, putting them into his bowl of cereal and crushing them with his spoon, all by himself. I think it made him feel like he was participating more in his meal time than ever before. The excitement of it all was a bonus. With the use of granulated sugar in my home, the little one hardly ever thought sugar could be anything but scooped up and never, ever picked up. Reminds me of sometime two years ago also in my mum’s when I was listening to my Spanish tapes and my niece, Lily, walks into the room, picks up one of the cassettes lying on the bed, and asks what it was.
Back to the matter. Getting the cubed pieces of sugar to perform their sweetening duties for a standard (by my standards) cup of milo requires at least four of its squared – shaped members! As for Chairman’s bowl of Quaker oats, any trace of sweetness begins after the fifth cube! At this point, I’m already beginning to feel guilty about packing his first meal of the day with too much sugar. Meanwhile, I can hardly taste the damn thing! How does one explain this except come to the conclusion that the sugar is not all made of sugar? And believe me, I’m not the only parent who complains about it at my mum’s. Unless of course, our sweet teeth have kicked in or we’re so in bed with the granulated kind we cannot help but disagree with its cubed version. However, the children don’t. The less we taste it in their meals, the more of it they’d have. It’s a win for them; a frustration for us.
Take for instance on Saturday morning with their bowls of ogi. T’s had four of them and Chairman’s had three. No, I didn’t buy the sugar when we returned from our trip; my mum gave me a pack when we were leaving. For the children, she said. To continue their excitement at meal times, I didn’t say. After crushing and mixing them up and tasting the cereal, I added one more to each bowl. The children incorporated them into their meals again. By the time they settled down to eat, T’s cereal had six cubes while Chairman’s had five, and I was shaking my head in slight annoyance.
The challenger bowls of ogi
Then again, using the cubed version disrupts my calculations on just how much their sugar intake at that instance is. The recommended daily sugar intake of children should be 3 – 4 teaspoons. Therefore, a teaspoon or a teaspoon and a half is in order for their cereals. The rest requirements can be taken during the course of the day.
In comparison to the cubed kind, I’m a bit stumped as to the measure of their sugar content. Apparently, a standard sugar cube is about the same amount as a teaspoon. With that, two cubes should suffice for a sweet enough cereal or chocolate drink for the children. That is not the case with their ogi above. It turns out that T and Chairman have both consumed more than their total daily intake in one sitting in the morning with the whole day still ahead of them! Add my complaints about its sweetening capacity (or seeming lack thereof) to this sugary mix.
So I’ll stick to the granulated kind, maintain my monitoring of their sugar fixes as well as my sanity in that area. I’d leave the other to my mum. It will become part of our annual tradition like spending the Christmas holidays with her and my siblings, the bisco – lightening, Santa Claus…
It would be one more thing the children can look forward to at the end of the year while I continue my slight annoyance and smile at the childhood memories they evoke as I hand them over to the children for their cereals and drinks.