October 7, 2011

Carbs: A Love Story

Managing a coffee bar has the obvious advantage of providing one with free coffee. The only limiting factor, really, is how much of a loss you're willing to stomach in order to caffeinate yourself. It can be a tricky balance to strike, drinking enough coffee to get work done, but not so much that you end up in the red. I usually limit my consumption to one or two mugs a day, with perhaps a double shot of espresso somewhere in there.

But today, I focused my gastronomical efforts on carbs, more than coffee. Carbohydrates have had their reputation sullied in the last decade or so, and not wholly without reason. Americans get most of their surplus calories from added sugar, which is of course a carbohydrate. Those of us who can do math (calorie balance, anyone?) never really fell for the Atkins hype, however, and stuck by our potatoes and oats.

And, occasionally, less wholesome options. Coffee bars tend to have some manner of baked goods, and mine is no exception. In fact, it's very much the rule. There are scones, muffins, cinnamon rolls, cookies, granola bars, breads, bagels, and I think that's all. It can be hard to keep track. Save the bagels, all of those are prepared by an in-house baker. The resulting pastries are massive, fresh, and exceptional.

And they have lots and lots of sugar. Normally, a have a decided aversion to the sweet stuff, the product of too much neurosis on my part. But normally, I'm not racing an ultra the next day. So, given these special circumstances, I decided to take advantage of yet another perk, courtesy of coffee bar management: Eating some of the stuff I was going to waste at the end of the day.

A few bites of  raspberry-oatmeal bar and oatmeal-cranberry cookie later, and I felt a surge of sugar whisking through my veins. I tried to will it in to storage, attempting the alchemy of converting glucose to glycogen. I wondered how anyone could make a daily habit of ingesting these things without bouncing off the walls, then realized just how tasty they were, and decided that I could probably get used to it. The (vegan) oatmeal-cranberry cookie, specifically, could easily become a dangerous habit. It utilizes mashed banana to compensate for the lack of eggs, and the result is more moist and sweet than any yolk could produce.

And hey, both items have oatmeal and fruit in the name. How bad could they be? Right? Right?

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