I am a sugar addict and plan to focus on merry notes that replace baking this Christmas — our health, my teal velvet dress and a sweet, fragrant orange.
I am hooked on sugar and trying to break the bond— there, I said it — so Santa, you will not find these accoutrements in our house this Christmas Eve.
- Christmas tree cookies with melted-chocolate swags. I made my first batch of buttery sugar-cookie dough in the International Chefs’ Club at Dumont High School (New Jersey) in the 1970s. As a younger mother, I left you a plateful and a note, first with our daughter Annie, and then with Skippy. If our girls were still believers now and the stars were in their courses, you would be fortunate to find a beautifully trimmed cookie from The Little Daisy Bake Shop. A sugar addict like me cannot handle the big batch anymore.
- Snow drifts of cream. Cool Whip, Reddi-wip or homemade whipped cream on a waiting mug of hot chocolate — not going to happen. Whipped toppings are pillowy, swirly, caplike and inviting, but it’s too hard for me to co-exist with them beyond a single serving; my spoon beckons, again and again.
- Soft landings for your sleigh. Marshmallows, in any way, shape or form call out to me from the cabinets — fancy rose-infused cubes from Ladurée Paris; vegan pink peppermint Dandies; or a jar of Marshmallow Fluff, now in production for 100 years. No can do, not this Yuletide.
- Mini you. I love the festive foil wrappers and retro vibe of tiny Russell Stover Milk Chocolate Santas. I bought them starting in college, to add sweet cheer to cookie and gift bags. Every Hallmark and local stationery store (even the drugstore in my hometown) carried them. But early this season, I bagged one four-ounce package of 16 little fellows and, under stress and exhaustion, devoured the last fleet standing one night. (If you must have mini-you treats, Mr. Claus, visit the shop where my Annie works on weekends: Montclair Stationery on Valley Road.)
- Nutella. Not baked in cookies, on fruit slices or flecked with spices. This includes supermarket brands and handcrafted Dolce Federica Nocciolosa — I picked up two cute, baby-size jars for Annie’s and Skippy’s stockings yesterday at 2:15 p.m. in a Boxed Organics Hanukkah order that included chocolate gelt for three kids in my midst. (We are not Jewish, but Skippy’s dear friends are, and she embraces all things Jewish.) The contents of one Nocciolosa jar vanished in a frenzy, at my hands, before midnight; the second mini jar is now in the car trunk. Out of sight, out of mind.
It’s been a journey to arrive at a place where I’m at peace leaving baking behind. I never thought I could or would. An addict is not okay with one serving. You need another slice and another sliver and another wedge until the pecan pie pan (lined with Emily Luchetti’s sweet, butter pastry dough) is empty. You cannot enjoy your substances in moderation. You seek out fixes morning, noon and night. And, in many cases, especially mine, your mood changes after sugaring up. I can turn erratic, mean and crazy. My road has been rocky.
On Christmas Day, I hope to stay calm and present, eat clean and count myself lucky for good health; my new velvet dress, made in the USA and shipped from Kingston, New York; and a plump, fragrant orange. Dad always said he and his two brothers were lucky to get oranges on boyhood Christmas mornings in the Bronx in the 1930s.
Merry sugar-free Christmas, Santa.
Alice Garbarini Hurley lives in Montclair, New Jersey with her family. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Coastal Living and Brain & Life. She loves magazines and worked on staff in that world for 16+ years. Below, photo of a Karina Dresses model wearing the new Christmas velvet dress Alice bought, and under that, a photo of Alice in a Karina dress that she happened upon years ago in a local fashion boutique (Thread) that has since closed. Catch a glimpse of Skippy, to whom Alice is legal guardian, in the bottom corner of the small photo.