Thursday, June 30, 2011

In praise of sugar

I stumbled across a website last week that predicted something that almost broke my heart. The site, called 24/7 Wall St., looked into its crystal ball and predicted the demise of ten brands in the upcoming year. While I recognized a few, the one that lept from the page was the prognostication that the cereal Kellogg's Corn Pops would be discontinued! NO! Citing figures that Corn Pops sales have dropped 18 percent and that the price of corn is making the stuff too expensive, the financial gurus claimed it would be cut by the cereal-maker in 2012. As a lover of cold cereal, I was more than a little distressed by this. I refuse to believe it, but if it did happen, I would still lay the blame on the trend of the late 70s when the word "sugar" was removed from cereal names. Hey, it was Kellogg's Sugar Pops. for years before the word police hushed all the sugar talk and pointed to corn. Sugar became a bad thing at that point when previously it was a selling point.

In 1949, Post put out a product called Sugar Crisp. With it, was a mascot who represented the cereal. He was simply named Sugar Bear. And Sugar Bear was on the cereal boxes and in the commercials. When the name was changed to Super Sugar Crisp in the 60s (because un-super sugar is nowhere near as wonderful as super sugar), Sugar Bear used to sing, "Can't get enough of Super Sugar Crisp." But when the sugar-haters got their way, these sugar-coated puffs of wheat became Super Golden Crisp, and eventually the 'super' was dropped (since super golden isn't all that special). Interestingly, the bear is still in some of the advertising and is still named Sugar Bear. Sugar is good enough for animals, but not for the breakfast table, I guess.

But I'll be honest. When the cereal was called Sugar Crisp, it was 50 percent sugar! That's right, half of it was sugar. It still is 50 percent sugar, as is it's Kellogg's cousin, Honey Smacks. Yes, Honey Smacks used to be Sugar Smacks. Kellogg's and Post need to keep up with one another, you know.

It's a shame that sugar takes such a bad rap. Sure, you don't want to overdose on sugar, but it isn't to be completely avoided. Over the past couple of years, the southern favorite sweet tea has become popular all over the country, even up here in Yankee states. What's so special about sweet tea? Well, there are all kinds of answers, but the correct response is obvious. SUGAR!

Sugar is a carbohydrate, and our bodies need carbohydrates. Sugar is tasty, and as Mary Poppins tried to tell everyone, just a spoonful of the white granular stuff will indeed help the icky-tasting medicine go down. There is a point to using real sugar. Meanwhile, how many sugar substitutes have been blacklisted by well-meaning agencies as being bad for you? I remember cyclamates. I've read about dulcin and P-4000, neither of which could be sold after 1950. And there are all sorts of claims about the problems with saccharin and aspartame and neotame and other stuff that I can't spell. If I'm going to eat something with warning labels, it might as well be the real thing.

So, with an eye on the traditional Independence Day picnic, I won't be sprinkling anything out of a pink, blue or yellow packet onto fresh fruit. I refuse to have a slice of sugar-free pie. And I may just take a black marker to a box of Corn Pops and label the thing correctly.

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