It’s autumn, with a long winter ahead. Hot drinks comprise an essential aspect of our life in these seasons. In September, I assembled new hot drink mixes for the season. I’ve already replenished one of those, fireside coffee (see A Cup of Coffee That Brings Tears to My Eyes). Following the recipe exactly, I didn’t think too critically about the process until I’d finished. At that point, I began to consider one of the recipe ingredients: sugar.
I puzzled over why the recipe would include sugar in addition to cocoa and commercial creamer, both of which contain more than enough sugar on their own.
I’d begun thinking in this direction for our Russian tea recipe, as described in Russian Alaskan Cuisine. I started shortly after making a batch of that mix, which will likely last us about a year. I’ll need to address this question in the future.
In the meantime, I decided to check the fireside coffee situation.
I quartered the recipe and whipped up a small jar of mix, omitting the sugar. I found the results completely satisfying. If I noticed any difference at all, it might be that the spices come out a bit more, which suits me perfectly. The next time I mix up a new batch of fireside coffee, the sugar stays out.
This works for us on a couple of different levels. I’m constantly seeking ways to simplify our recipes to the fewest ingredients possible (see Seeking Simplicity: Stripped Down Baked Beans). In addition to lowering meal cost, it allows us to make a wider variety of dishes with limited supplies on hand.
Secondly, while we try not to worry about it too much, we recognize the importance of reducing sugar in our diet. As consumers, we have been taught by the U.S. food industry to expect our sweet foods and drinks to be super-sweetened. They’ve created that need in us by adding high fructose corn syrup to almost every commercially available product. They primarily do this to create a market for excess corn, and the result has been disastrous for the nation’s health. I suspect that the added sugar in our drink mix recipes addresses the heightened expectation for sweetness to which our society has been conditioned.
Considering that I’m on my second batch of fireside coffee this season, eliminating the sugar seems like a very smart move.