As they waited in the car on a bustling Bay Ridge avenue, my parents used to have me run into our local deli and order their coffees, light and sweet. I’d dutifully return with two, now iconic, blue and white Anthora cups with “We are Happy to Serve You” printed on the side – more of a cheerful takeaway than expressed by the guy who had given them to me. This was before upscale coffee shops were a dime a dozen and you went to the deli or bagel shop for your caffeine fix. Dunkin’ Donuts was fancy.
I looked up the general guidelines for what "light and sweet" means for sugar - apparently, it can mean getting upwards of 3 sugars stirred into your joe. These days, we pretty much know sugar is the devil and to order a coffee light and that sweet is perhaps a little extreme, even for me; a more appropriate order might be sugar with a splash of coffee.
But, if that’s how you roll, you will find no judgment here because I think that I am one of the few remaining people in the greater NYC area that still wants my coffee brimming with fat and sweetened with the real stuff. When they ask me if I want full fat milk, I say in a hushed tone, “Actually, do you have half and half or cream?” When they point me in the direction of the lids, napkins, stirrers and assorted sweeteners, I do not even think twice before reaching for a brown packet (or two) of Sugar in the Raw. And, when people stare down their noses over their large cup of half-soy-half-almond-milk-hold-the-flavor-and-the-caffeine-and-the-calories-accino, I tell myself it’s ok, because at least I’m using less processed sugar and not the refined white stuff. So much better. Right?
I am partially kidding here, because I don’t actually care what others think about my coffee predilections. In spite of the flood of anti-sugar warnings, I’ve never met an artificial sweetener that I have even remotely considered ingesting as a replacement. I am of the very firm mentality that pound for pound, one real sugar has got to be better than a teaspoon or two of saccharin or aspartame or whatever other chemical compound replacement exists that I have a hard time saying or, more importantly, swallowing. Even many of the “natural” sweetener alternatives have gotten mixed press about how much “better” they are for us (I’m looking at you agave) – never mind that I also don’t like how most of them taste.
So, I ask myself - what would Michael Pollan do?
In all other aspects of my food life, I don’t eat it if I can’t say it, an idea that he made popular in, “In Defense of Food.” So, why would it be different with the stuff I put in my coffee? And, I think a little sugar in my morning coffee is ok. It’s usually the first and the last of my daily sugar intake (except during ice cream season), and sweetened coffee puts a little pep in my AM step, so that's gotta count for something.
I wonder what Michael Pollan puts in his coffee? He probably drinks unsweetened green tea.
I write about food and I talk about food and I eat a lot of food. Co-writer of Amanda Freitag's, The Chef Next Door and Cooking in my Street Clothes by Missy Robbins (Fall '17). Co-founder of Family Meal, cooking classes that allow family members to learn, cook and eat together, taught by pro chefs.