For the Love of Bread


I like to think that diabetes hasn’t changed me — and indeed, in most ways I think I’m still the person I was before I was diagnosed with Type 1 thirteen years ago. But every once in a while, I have an experience that reminds me of how much I’ve changed. 

This weekend, the culprit was pita bread. My husband and I were having friends over for dinner, and he had made amazing homemade hummus as part of the meal. (He is on an extreme hummus kick, inspired by the recipe in Ottolenghi’s latest cookbook, Jerusalem — I highly recommend the recipe, the cookbook, and acquiring a husband who will make it for you.) Anyway, it occurred to us that we didn’t have anything to eat the hummus with (I usually just use a spoon). So, since Peter had spent the entire morning prepping the chicken with arak and fennel and oranges — another amazing Ottolenghi recipe — I offered to go to the grocery store to get some pita bread. 

When I got there, however, it suddenly occurred to me that despite having shopping in the same store more than once a week for the past year, I had no idea where the bread was. I can tell you where the fennel is. I can tell you where the fresh coconut water, useful in supermarket hypoglycemic episodes, is located. Hell, if you really want to know, I can even direct you toward the fresh mozzarella (which is not with the rest of the cheeses, just FYI). But bread? No idea.

 In fact, I hadn’t even realized there was a bakery department. When I finally located it, I stood there for a few minutes just staring at all the bags of bread in front of me and realizing that, although I’ll eat really good bread at a restaurant, no questions asked, it has probably been more than a year since I bought a regular loaf of plastic-wrapped bread.  I realized that I have adopted a bread philosophy in which every time I am faced with the option of eating some, I ask whether it is truly there for deliciousness, or whether its real purpose is to keep whatever it’s holding off of my fingertips — like an edible napkin. I also consider whether it has melted cheese on it. If the answer to the second question is yes (and/or the other two is no), then I don’t eat it; I’ve gotten pretty good at getting the sandwich filling into my mouth while leaving the sandwich behind. 

When I finally did inspect the bread department, I realized that there is a reason I was not aware of its location: I think bagged bread is gross! And when I finally located the pita (which was around the corner), I couldn’t bring myself to buy a package. It had that yeasty, pita smell that I associate with bad hummus and alfalfa sprouts. I picked up a package and put it back, then repeated that a few more times, and then called Peter to ask if he *really* wanted pita bread, or if maybe he’d be okay with baby carrots and you know, those Stacy’s pita chip things that come with a delicious coating of sea salt. He said okay, and that’s what I bought (also realizing that I have no familiarity with the chip aisle). I still intended to eat my hummus with a spoon, but at least our guests would have an option. 

What I particularly like about my bread aisle revelation is that it means I have an entire section of the supermarket to feel good about. By which I mean, I like to try to give myself credit for diabetically unfriendly foods that I have the willpower to say no to. I typically restrict the satisfaction of my self-denial to foods I actually have a desire to eat (for example, last night I did not have ice cream, despite having some serious visions of soft serve). I don’t give myself credit for self-restraint unless there’s at least a modicum of, well, restraint.

But why not give ourselves credit for ALL the foods we say no to, whether we like them or not? Like, for example, when I go out to brunch, I don’t typically give myself points for not ordering the pancakes, because I actually don’t like pancakes all that much. But why shouldn’t I? Doing so is like a free self-esteem boost (which is especially useful if you have ignored the pancakes in favor of a cheese-covered egg thing). Instead of lamenting my weakness for dark chocolate, why not dwell instead on all the crappy bread in the supermarket that I am not buying — the thousands upon thousands of empty carbs that shall never pass through my lips? Thinking about things this way, I am AWESOME!

So the next time I go to the supermarket, I’m going to deliberately go to the bakery department. I’m going to stand in front of that bagged sandwich bread and I’m going to take a deep, untempted breath. I’m going to think about how unappealing I find it. And then I’m going to pat myself on the back. 

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