A vegan truffle-lover recently asked me about the “sugar you use in the truffles.” Let’s talk about it, vegan-to-vegan (because no one else is going to be interested in this post).
I’ve been vegan for about 15 years, and though I have gone through periods in which I ate no sugar for vegan reasons, these days I consider the great sugar debate rather peripheral and unavoidable – much like the sad fact that things like asphalt, most paint, and anti-freeze include animal products. Of course, I do not eat asphalt and drink anti-freeze. It’s one thing to drive on animal products and another to willingly ingest them.
I do try to avoid most beers and wines that are made with a fish by-product (isinglass), because there are so many other great beers and wines out there. And in my own business, I use Wholesome Sweeteners’ organic evaporated cane juice sugar, which is completely vegan – no bone char is used in its refining process (check the faq on their site for a “vegan assurance statement”!).
However, I do not add any sugar to the truffles – all the sweetness comes from the chocolate.
Hey – while I’m at it, can I just talk for a minute about the sugar police? Almost (but not quite) as bad as the dreaded vegan police, the sugar police are hardcore, dudes. I probably get an email a week from someone asking me why I don’t make a sugar-free truffle, or one sweetened with agave syrup or stevia or their favorite hippie sweetener of the moment. Dudes!
The truffles are made with chocolate, chocolate is made with sugar. I’m not dumping bags of Domino into your organic and fair trade truffles, I promise.
But I’ve come to lose some faith in the no-sugar world. My natural foods cooking school taught that white sugar was the devil, and recommended maple syrup, maple sugar, and rapidura instead. I think rapidura smells like sweat (and won’t link to it), maple sugar is priced like cocaine, and though I love maple syrup because it’s local and delicious, not all desserts need a liquid sweetener and not all desserts need a maple flavor.
Sugar has a clean flavor that I like, so I’d rather use a high quality real sugar and just eat less dessert. Plus, a doctor friend of mine once told me that all sugars are metabolized in the body the exact same way, so who knows what to think?
All I know is that after cooking school I went for a literal year without eating white sugar and hardly any sugar of any kind and guess what? I felt exactly the same as I do every day – jittery and with an excess of energy fueled only by political outrage and calmed only with revolution! Seriously! Sugar really does nothing for me either way. In the spirit of full disclosure, actually, I feel I must admit that I am currently chewing a huge hunk of Bubblicious Watermelon Wave gum. Vegan police – don’t school me on what “gum base” could be. I know. I’m taking my chances.
Back to chocolate and sugar and veganism:
I use organic and fair-trade chocolate from Callebaut, and have never been able to find any info from them about their sugar refining process. I just did another Google search and nothing came up, so I just sent my distributor an email to see if he could find out, because I’m curious as well.
But the way I think about it (and I’m sure some vegans disagree, which is just fine), veganism is a path. While there are several unbreakable rules – not eating dairy, for example – we also have to give ourselves points for staying on the path and need to recognize that we are not going to build a vegan world overnight (or ever, yo), so some compromises are necessary.
If eating a really good vegan truffle made from chocolate that might include sugar that used bone char at some point during the refining process in miniscule amounts that are too tiny to be detected helps someone stay vegan, I’m all for it.
That said, if I could find a chocolate that is organic and fair trade and tastes as good as the one I’m now using and doesn’t use bone char in its refining process, I would use it in a heartbeat. But I don’t have much hope, having spent literally years to find my current combination. And maybe Callebaut’s sugar is completely vegan after all…I’ll keep you posted!
January 2008 update: Big news! The good people at Pangea report that they have confirmation that Callebaut’s sugar is non-bone char processed. Vegans everywhere rejoice!