When I was a child (<10 years old), I hated sweets. My mother, on the other hand, was a sweet-butter, as it is called in this side of the world – she could eat clay, if sweetened enough. She was most disappointed about my revulsion to sweets, because that meant, she could not use me as an excuse to buy herself sweetmeats.
Puberty brought with it a whole lot of changes in me, but most important was the sweet tooth. I never correlated my sweet-cravings to my cycles, but I remember that I used to have periodic cravings for sweets that I would simply walk into the kitchen at midnight on some days and stuff my face with sugar.
Chocolates were a rarity when I was growing because they were expensive. Sticky toffees were the middle-class chocolate. They were like sweetened play dough, but I was grateful for even those, when offered. Cadbury’s chocolates were of course, the choicest treats, but at Rs. 9 a bar, they were beyond the reach of the salaried class, except when affluent relatives, who wanted to brag their affluence to us bloody middle classes, visited with such bars. When my cousin visited from the US (grad school) for the first time one June that I was in high school, he brought me a box of chocolates – which I know now. were the left-overs from Valentine day sales. I remember being thrilled and eating the chocolates carefully – one small bar a day, so that they would last longer. By then, mom was no more, and I didn’t have to share the chocolates with anyone else.
While I can down large chunks of cakes, scones and doughnuts, I never liked the “traditional” south Indian sweetmeats. I cannot have more than a bite of laddu or jangri without gagging. I am not a great fan of jaggery-flavoured sweets either – not swooning over akkara adisil is sacrilegious to my iyengar up-bringing. Unless, the jaggery is coupled to nuts – like in the peanut butter balls, which when home made, can send me to raptures.
The combination of milk and sugar has always been irresistible to me. Even now, my lactose intolerance notwithstanding, I can bottomsup a large glass of sweetened milk like a baby – of course, I would need a diaper like one after that too. Add some saffron strands to hot sweet milk – I smile like a Cheshire cat for the rest of the day. I could kill for a Guruvayur pal payasam even now. I miss my American life merely for egg nog (with and without rum) during Christmas times.
My sweet cravings have not reduced one bit in the past three decades. I have a can of rosogolla in the fridge that won’t last much longer. I also have a rather large can of mango srikand, which is all mine because the rest of the family would rather have “western” style fruit yogurt than our thick, creamy, gooey, yummy srikand. I could have a dozen kulfis than any other ice cream in the world. My latest discovery is the Malayali achchappam – flower shaped goodness of deep-fried flour and sugar. Which I can’t find anywhere in my neighbourhood today. I am irritated.
Over years, I have learned to correlate my sweet cravings with the time of the month, or time of the day. On a monthly basis, when I start craving for sugar, I know my mental disturbances are not far behind. On a daily basis, I must have something sweet after every meal – and fruits don’t cut the deal. In keeping my expanding waistline in mind, I avoid stashing sweets at home, but that does not help too much; sometimes the craving gets too distracting that, like I did as an adolescent, I go into the kitchen and throw in a spoonful of Bournvita into my mouth. Or Horlicks powder. Or just sugar.
I notice that my daughter has taken exactly after me. Until she was 10, she would turn green when force-fed sweets by the sweet-toothed mom, trying to get out of the guilt of gorging on sweets without sharing with the child. Now, she is always rummaging the fridge for sweets. I know I shouldn’t be happy about it – sweets are not particularly healthy, are they? – but I feel tremendous connection with her. When she comes to me and wistfully says “it would be really nice to have a piece of dark chocolate now – do you have any amma?”, I rush to the store to get some because I know.