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By Christine Hoffman, Freelance Writer, Blogger & Novelist

A baker amongst greens: A farm market vendor's opinion on why it is sometimes OK to save room for dessert

Christine Hoffman, Proprietor

The Tiny Farm Kitchen

January, 2016

Lots of people walk by my table at the farmers market with downturned faces and simply bursting with the need to tell me how wonderful everything looks but they simply “cannot have any of it.” It is a funny thing, which we all do, and I myself have been guilty of the same from time to time as I try to make good choices with the foods I put into my body.

Gluten Free, Sugar Free, Fat Free, Paleo, Atkins, South Beach, cleanses, Detox, clean eating, Grapefruit, Cabbage Soup, Weight Watchers, Zone, Jenny Craig, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil! WebMD lists over 100 different diets on their website, and there are at least 10 more I can think of off the top of my head that are not on their list. To be more specific, I am talking about tools that people all across the country are using to try and live a healthier lifestyle, (obviously people who have serious allergies and intolerances are not included under this umbrella.)

There is so much information coming at us every day about what we should and should not be eating, and a lot of it is very valuable information. However, at the best of times, the sheer amount of it, often conflicting, is quite overwhelming. It is wonderful that people are taking a serious look at what we are putting into our bodies every day! It is something we should be talking about, and the more we do the clearer that tangled mess of information gets. But, all of this talk means big trouble for traditional bakers right? Those almighty purveyors of sweet bliss covered in frosting? I’m here to say that I entirely disagree, but we will get to that in a moment.

Now, let me stop here and say, I am not a nutritionist. I am not a food scientist, and I am certainly not a doctor. I am a baker. I am not going to sit here and tell you what choices you should make for your own personal health and well-being. I’m not going to tell you that sugar is a super food and you should eat all the chocolate cake you want to. That would be absolutely ridiculous and against my own personal beliefs.

I love farmers markets. I am a vegetable fiend! I spend almost all of my free time with my bare feet black with dirt in the summer tending my organic garden and love every second of it. I am also a huge supporter of other home growers and farmers. I am an obsessive label reader and follower of health information. I clean with vinegar as opposed to Lysol and make my own laundry soap. I also cook and bake with flour, butter, chocolate and that dastardly demon sugar. Not only that, but I bake extra and sell it to others!

It seems contradictory, that someone who seems so health conscious would choose such a profession, or admit to creating all of that sinful sweet goodness for her own family. But I will stand up straight and shout it from the rooftops; I am a health nut, and I eat dessert! I spent an awful lot of time avoiding sugar and flour and speaking the very same words to all of the bakers that crossed my path, that so many say to me when they visit me at the market; “Oh, that looks wonderful but I cannot have it.”

I am not faulting a single one of those patrons. They are trying to make good choices, and many of them have health concerns that make it necessary to do so. I will not make choices for others, but I can share my own experiences, and explain that despite my goals to live a healthy life, I still make room for the sinful sweet stuff. For myself, I made a decision that life was just too short to spend with my nose stuck in calorie counting apps, or drinking some horrible detox blend that tastes like pond scum. I make a vigorous effort to keep my dinner table set with healthy faire. I also allow myself to eat the “bad” stuff. Sugar, Gluten, and natural fats like butter. I do this because in my mind the “bad” stuff is not the sugar that I put into my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies, it is the aspartame in the low sugar alternative. Its not the butter I cut into the biscuit dough, it’s the chemical processing and artificial colors and flavors used in making margarine.

My idea of healthy eating is simple; eat real food, and it is this belief that comes through into the work I do. Bread and sweets are loved by everyone, the recipes and rituals of baking are part of each of our family histories and our history as a culture. Most of us are not always going to refuse those beautiful Holiday treats or turn our noses up at birthday cake. Why should we?! So, instead of breaking down in the cookie aisle in the supermarket, make a healthy choice. Not to refuse the treat until you get so frustrated you are binge eating Hostess cakes an hour later, but choose a different treat. Eat fresh baked bread instead of buying a processed loaf. Bring home a box of real cookies instead of reaching for the Nabisco. The real stuff tastes a heck of a lot better, and if you allow yourself this, every now and again, in the end your body will thank you for it.

Hand to heart, as a baker I will NEVER use fake ingredients, I do not make it a point to stock up on high fructose corn syrup. As a business, I stand proudly amongst the microgreen farmers and the omega oil vendors at the market. Despite the funny looks and commentary that I usually get, I am there for the same reason they are; to provide the public with real food. Unprocessed, natural, local, small batch goodness. Made with love, not factory equipment.

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