I’ve mentioned in other postings that my mother was very health conscious–especially when it came to food. We grew our own fruits and vegetables in our huge, pesticide-free garden that provided enough harvest for our immediate family, and my grandparents, for an entire year. Our meats were purchased from local farmers, and our eggs (often gathered by me) came from my grandmother’s chickens. Beverage consumption was simple; 99.9% of the time we drank water with our meals and when we were thirsty. On a rare, special occasion, my mother would make a huge stoneware pitcher of iced tea, sweetened with a small amount of sugar and laced with mint leaves from our yard. It was heavenly while it lasted, but it never seemed to last very long. Sodas, like ginger ale, Coke, or Pepsi were presented to us as medicinal and something we were allowed to indulge in when we had a stomach virus or fever.
My maternal grandmother, had a different philosophy about food than my mother. Though she, too, made everything from scratch, she was a lot more indulgent in her use of salt, butter, and sugar. This made a meal from her kitchen taste ten times better than anything I’d ever have at home (Sorry Mom). Creamy mashed potatoes, decadent gravy, sweet and savory barbequed chicken, and the best Cole slaw I’ve ever tasted are memories that I have from her kitchen. Cakes, pies, cookies, and homemade chocolate pudding were just a few of the treats she’d serve up for dessert. Without my mom’s watchful eye, I could honestly eat myself silly at my grandmother’s house. Like most grandmothers she relished in my overindulgence and scoldingly told my mom to let me enjoy myself.
Besides all things salty, buttery and sweet, my grandmother had another vice that I was dead-set on sharing with her; Fresca. Much to my mother’s distress, my grandmother drank this citrusy, delicious, calorie-free soda all day long. Back then Fresca was sweetened with saccharine, my mother’s equivalent to poison. She warned my grandmother countless times of the horrible death scenarios that would befall her if she didn’t give up her beloved beverage. My grandmother would roll her eyes, pull the tab, and take a long swig.
I knew how good Fresca tasted;several times I’d stolen a few clandestine sips from her unattended can. On the rare occasions that my grandmother would babysit my brother and I, getting an icy juice glass full of Fresca was guaranteed. “Don’t tell your mom I let you have it,” would be her words as she handed over the goods. I’d try to sip it and make it last. I’d roll it’s poison sweetness over my tongue and try to decide if it tasted more like grapefruit or tangerine.
This past Monday, as I entered a convenience store to pay for gas, I passed a cooler stocked full of icy sodas. In spite of my obsession as a child, I’ve not been much of a soda drinker as an adult. However, with the 90 degree temperatures outside, those fizzy bottles of refreshment looked tempting. When I noticed a calorie-free Fresca in the mix, I couldn’t resist.
Back at my car, I untwisted the lid and let the cold, bubbly, citrus memories fill my mouth. There was no one watching; no one monitoring my intake. “Hell,” I thought, “I could guzzle this down and go back for more.” Luckily, my inability to drink copious amounts of fizzy things saved me from myself and I was only able to finish one bottle.
Within twenty minutes, I deeply regretted my decision. By the time I arrived home, my stomach was killing me. By Tuesday it was worse. Wednesday, I was still suffering, and yesterday, I spent the entire day in the bathroom. Today, my stomach is still sore, and I’m living on broth and applesauce, hoping to feel well enough by the afternoon to visit the gym.
A small amount of research taught me that Fresca is now sweetened with Aspartame and another chemical sweetener, Acesulfame Potassium. A simple Google search showed me countess stories of Aspartame causing IBS symptoms. As a longtime sufferer of IBS (symptom free since Optifast), I know that’s exactly what’s been going on with me.
I remember when Aspartame use came into vogue, my mother insisted that it was just as poisonous as its predecessors. Though I know several people who use it, due to diabetes, and have no ill effects. I guess it depends on the individual. Since this reaction stemmed from my first try of it, I think my mom may have had a point.
Goodbye forever, Fresca! Hello water and plain tea!
Do you use artificial sweeteners? Do you think they’re safe?