During the crisis that left 300,000 West Virginians without tap water, I began making mental notes about the products I use and the ingredients I eat or drink. I started this little internal survey after opening a box of facial lotion and reading the active and inactive substances that are supposed to make me look 10 years younger. I held up the box and told my husband, “This may be a good example of the pot calling the kettle black.”
I color my hair three or four times a year, and I bleach my teeth every six months. I’ll rub an apple on my shirt and then take a huge bite out of it, and every so often, I’ll sneak a few grapes out of the bag and eat them…unwashed. Last summer, my daughter got a chemical burn from swimming in a local pool that had just been treated with a sizable load of chlorine to make the water crystal clear. But our worst offense, one that makes every cancer survivor wince, is the amount of artificial sweetener poured into our glasses of iced tea and mugs of hot coffee … every day.
I know. This stuff has been reported to cause cancer in lab rats, yet I rip, pour, stir and sip anyway. But I’m trying to do better for myself and for my family, so I’ve taken to the Internet and to culinary magazines to find a solution that won’t sacrifice taste or our lives.
It’s called….agave nectar.
This amber liquid, a type of syrup, is expensive. This is probably the reason why I’ve ignored it on grocery store shelves. However, celebrity chef Giada DeLaurentiis swears by it, and if she can wolf down bowls of pasta and chase it with cups of sweetened cappuccino, then I’ll have what she’s having.
During a recent shopping trip, I rediscovered gourmet foods and spices at Home Goods in the kitchen department. I used to walk by these shelves and assume the food was old or so bad the stores had to ship products to outlet centers for a quick sale. I learned that most of these items are simply overstocks — it’s perfectly good and well within “best by” dates.
And whaddya know? Home Goods at the Shoppes at Trace Fork sells all kinds of agave nectar! Cheap, too!
I forked over $2 and change for a pretty bottle of sweetness and raced home to try it in a cup of Starbuck’s Mocha. I wasn’t sure how much to use, but the famous chef from Italy tells us to use “just a little bit — just a drop to sweeten it up.” So I squeezed just a little bit, swirled a spoon to release the color from jet black to chocolate brown, and then I sipped. I waited. I sipped again.
Maybe just another squirt.
A few seconds later, I had used half the bottle.
Agave nectar may be called “honey water” by our friends in South America, but this girl from Charley West calls it Karo syrup. Conscious consumers rightfully feel better about using natural products as opposed to “packets of poison”, but experts say a dollop of agave contains 60 calories. White table sugar contains 40 calories. Perhaps less is more.