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Knowing your addictions…

July 19, 2020

What Were We Thinking? The Top 10 Most Dangerous Ads | Collectors ...

Our first and most obvious craving was for sugar.

You don’t realize that sugar is really just a low-level cocaine addiction until you don’t have it anymore.

We were into our second week of living in a remote Indonesian rainforest village of thatched huts and tin roofs – having arrived in the season in which villagers were down to eating plain rice and a small piece of smoked fish – twice a day meals – and nothing else.

Okay, not entirely true.

The only other food was coconut.

You could eat all the coconut you wanted – it literally fell from the trees right in front of you.

Coconut was as ubiquitous as the tropical sun, or the torrential rain that arrived every afternoon – for 30 minutes – precisely at three.

But there’s only so much coconut one can eat, or coconut milk one can drink.

20 Vintage Health Ads That Give Absolutely Terrible AdviceAs a youth counselor I have sat with young people going through drug withdrawal – on their second or third attempt at “going straight,” – and I’ve seen young, otherwise healthy, Canadians go through sugar withdrawal in a village where sugar – in any form – did not exist.

The symptoms are quite similar.

(Months later I will play with children while sitting under mango trees (where it is considered very good luck to have a mango fall on you; after I have eaten grapefruits the size of my head, that tasted almost as sweet as strawberries – but that was not now.)

If you grew up in typical North American fashion, sugar has probably been your best friend since before kindergarten.

And just like any withdrawal, sugar withdrawal will leave you with the usual assortment of unpleasant bodily reactions for which you must necessarily suffer: the Phase I sweats, fevers, and shakes. The crying, the lying in the fetal position, the physical pains that haunt Phase II.

The uncontrollable pleading in Phase III.


The Hidden Secrets Lurking in Dutch Still Life Paintings - ArtsyThe first food fantasies began, in, or around the second week we were in the village.

By the end of the first month they are hard-care obsessions.

We didn’t notice them for what they were that first time someone mentioned that they missed their favorite burger. We were returning from the villagers’ daily 2k trek to get water that flowed from the side of a hill deeper in the rainforest. I remember the water container harness tearing into the tops of my shoulders, and that we were all famished.

All of us now slightly mad after eating the exact same meal – rice and a palm-sized piece of fish – twice a day, for four weeks. Like everyone else, I had lost weight.

fullsizeoutput_17aIn my dreams, I ate fresh ripe field tomatoes sprinkled with a touch of salt – like the ones I ate as a twelve-year-old when I picked tomatoes with my father in the tomato fields down in Wellington.

I dreamt of slices of crisp watermelon, hot-buttered corn, peas just picked in the garden.

A couple of times we sat together and the circle devolved into pure impassioned visions (pleas?) of people’s perfect food cravings – different cravings for different days – developing ways of describing this perfect food craving; and why it was “perfect” at that time.

Someone’s perfectly cooked steak, someone’s fresh warm baguette, chocolate and strawberries, the best place to get a perfect slice of pizza, my mom’s rosemary-roasted chicken and dumplings – on a crisp September night, me coming in from 2 hours of barn chores, the smell of freshly creamed peaches for dessert.

Jewish dairies from the Nazi concentration camps wrote of the food fantasies that would come to totally possess one’s mind. Of watching fathers punch their own sons in the face for a scrap of bread.

Never in the time I worked in the village of Bau-Bau was I ever in danger of starving – what with my twice daily rations of rice and fish and all the coconut you could eat or drink.

The mundane repetitiveness of it all nearly drove us insane.

Once we realized what was going on with the food-fantasy circle-jerks – that we had been reduced to sharing our obsessions – we realized that we no longer needed that particular form of an AA meeting.


How To Ripen Mangoes: Different Ways To Ripen The King Of Fruits ...I no longer remember the order in which the first fruit and vegetables came into season – only that I can still vividly recall – like the fleeting feeling of an orgasm – that first time I ate a freshly picked grapefruit, or that time-suspending sensation of eating that first ripe mango – in an otherwise sugarless world.


I should also mention the meat cravings.

95% of us eat meat. Forty years ago it was closer to 99% of us.

Me, having grown up both with little sugar and on a beef and pork farm – I did not go through the too-terrible sugar withdrawal (comparatively speaking), but I remember the meat withdrawal like I remember the mango!


My mom and dad both have told me tales of growing up in the midst of the Great Depression and World War II – both sides of my family having sent soldiers, and my 4th generation German grandfather having been interned; his father’s property confiscated.

If I had complained to any of them…if I could have complained to them from my village (short-term) reality, I’m pretty sure any one of them would have simply patted me on the head and gone back to their work.


Ten years later and I am helping a friend, whom I met at university, deliver supplies to a refugee camp in West Ghana.

Civil war was raging in Cote D’Ivoire, and women and children were pouring across the Ghanian border, trying to escape the rape and pillage.

A group of women told me they had been talking about okra sauce, and how it was made in their villages. There was a high-spirited dispute about who’s village produced the best sauce.

Now they were eating United Nations rice and Brazilian black beans.


One of the first things a Young Offender will tell me they are going to do upon their release from imprisonment, is to go eat their favorite food – a food they have thought about, almost every day, since their first week of incarceration.

Zeus’ favorite food was ambrosia.

I have Venezuelan friends who will argue over the perfect rice and beans.

My partner doesn’t think she could live – or, what would the point of living be? – if there was no good cheese?

Would I want to live in a world without Italian sauces?


The Festival of South Asia is taking over Little India on July 13 ...

Toronto’s Little India food festival

I love Toronto specifically for its global variety of food.

Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, so there is an almost infinite variety of dishes to choose from.

Chinese, South-Asian, Mediterranean, Italian; perhaps some excellent cheese from Kensington Market, Argentinian empanadas, Ghanian peanut soup? I’ve had roti on West King that nearly made me cry.

12+ Chinatown Restaurants You Must Eat At in Toronto | Local Food ...Making the dishes yourself is best, but a Saturday night in Toronto’s Little India, or on Spadina in Chinatown, or getting veggie burgers at a pub on Bloor West – it’s what makes living in downtown Toronto so much fun.

But the first and lasting imprints are the ones you take to your grave.

If I ever get dementia, I imagine myself wondering the corridors, looking for the path to the mango garden, all the while throwing little sticks back up into the canopy, while macaques laugh down at me and try to drop twigs on my head. And every night, some staff person will feed me plain rice and tell me it’s my mom’s rosemary-roasted chicken stew.


One Comment leave one →
  1. July 19, 2020 10:18 pm

    That’s really interesting. I actually stopped eating all forms of Refined sugarsugar for three weeks. I wouldn’t eat drink fruit juice or sugar cereals or put sugar on anything. Didn’t drink soda. Nothing.

    And after three weeks I figured like hey, I think I’ll have some spree. In the United States, at least, spree is another kind of sweet tarts, if you know the candy sweet tarts. It’s basically fruit flavored sugar pills. And ate a whole roll of one of those and that day I was flying! It was the best hi I’ve ever had, and I’ve done pretty much every drug there is. I felt so good and relaxed, full of energy, was joking with everyone, friends with everyone. I felt ecstatic and that life was wonderful. Truly, sugar is a very powerful drug.

    And I was like that the whole day just having a great time. And the next morning, I had the worst hangover I’ve ever experienced in my life. I could barely swallow because my throat was so dry. I had a splitting pounding headache. And these symptoms lasted the whole day and I didn’t even barely sleep that night. And I was dizzy throughout the day and my head was clouded. Light was unbearable.

    Yep, modern society is slavery. And the normalization of being unconscious.

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