"At the end of 2020 I jumped out of a plane. I was strapped to an extremely friendly Irishman at the time, with a perfectly functioning parachute, and in basically no danger. But by the time I hit the ground, I was absolutely overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunities that I've had in life. How lucky have I been to enjoy all the freedoms I've enjoyed, and at times taken for granted?" Sarah Coates
I'm back to my top foodie websites today. This one is called The Sugar Hit and is mostly about sweet things - well you guessed that from the title didn't you? And actually it's the reason I have put off doing this one for some time, as I'm not really into sweet stuff. I'm more of a savoury person.
However, as I started to explore, not only did I change my mind a bit about the food itself, well sort of, but I also found myself delving into the story of the lady behind the site - Sarah Coates. The pictures above sort of explain why it interested me - well tantalised me really. On the left Sarah from the website itself and on the right the lady in 2021. And there seems to be much more to the story than a change of hair colour - and maybe a loss of weight. But then again maybe not.
In 2013 Sarah Coates began her website. Inspired by Nigella in part and a discovery of Nigella's talents as a writer, but mostly "because I freaking love food." And yes her writing style on the blog is somewhat in your face - four letter words appear now and then - but it is definitely enthusiastic and expressive, even, occasionally almost lyrical - for example:
"A juicy and perfect peach is a 2 minute experience of pure happiness. It’s hard for me not to roll my eyes whenever I hear anyone using the phrase high-on-life, but that’s the closest term I can think of to describe the experience. Every bite, the flavour, the texture, the gushing, sweet, juicy ripeness of it all, is a plain old great time."
And her site logo expresses that joy - what she describes as "an exploration of sheer unadulterated joy through food."
She was in her early twenties at the time, had dropped out of college, and was trying to live like a hipster - to paraphrase a longer comment of hers. Her love of food, and particularly sweet food, and a growing love of photography made her throw herself into blogging. Her very first post, dated November 24 2010 is an introduction:
"I wanted to start this blog so that all of my sugar and butter consumption would have a raison d’être. A place where the evidence of mine and my friends and family’s sweet eating could go, not to be destroyed, but to be celebrated and maybe brought into the kitchen of someone new."
And she kept up a fairly constant flow of recipes - predominantly cakes and other sweet things until October 2016. Then nothing. Well one more post in June 2018 for a salsa. It was short, it was not about cake and there was absolutely no reference to why the long break. After that there is nothing. Although I did forget to say that in the middle of this journey she published a book by the same name which seems to have been well received.
"The Sugar Hit! offers simple techniques, talks about exciting flavors, and educates readers on how to achieve maximum results for minimum effort along with offering hot tips of shortcuts, kitchen hacks, and ideas for variations on recipes." Goodreads
And she herself achieved fame in the blogging world, with several interviews and articles written for other publications.
So why did the blog cease to be, with absolutely no explanation at all? I know that if I decided to put an end to Rosemary's Ramblings I would be saying so in my last post, and explaining why. The Sugar Hit is still there, but because of the lack of goodbyes, it took me a little while to realise that the date on the last post was 2018, and that the previous one was 2016.
I tried to track the lady down and through a variety of means came up with a couple of stories - one fairly pragmatic and possibly ordinary, one imagined and fanciful. Well it's what I do. I can't help myself. Perhaps we always want to imagine that life is more full of incident than it really is.
First of all she seems to still be online via Facebook and Instagram. However, since I am not a member of either, and have no intention of being one, I cannot really tell you more. Indeed when I tried to add the link to the Instagram page I found that I couldn't access it any more. It seems you get just one chance and then you have to join up. Suffice to say that they seem to be current - I'm pretty sure I saw something dated 2021 on Facebook, but I'm no long allowed to see what it was. And both of them, and the Pinterest Sugar Hit page, still point to the original blog.
I think it was on one of these - or maybe it was Twitter, that I found that she is now - right now - about to do a charity trek across the Simpson Desert for an organisation called Youngcare, which is where the second photograph and the quote at the top of the page come from.
And finally I found her LinkedIn profile, which stated that she was a:
"Digital Producer working across projects from full scale web builds to film shoots"
There was also a CV detailing her career so far. It included The Sugar Hit - blog and book but also showed that since she has been working, and including the years she was creating her blog, she has been working in the digital creative and marketing sphere - her current role being 'project leader' at Flip - a Brisbane digital and creative agency which I suspect means advertising.
All very almost boring. A young, talented and enthusiastic digital creator who gets noticed through her blog - maybe that was the plan - gets better and better jobs and eventually gives up the blog. It's no longer important to her, had achieved its aim, she just got bored with doing it, or there was no time to do it.
However, I then had a look at one of her last posts - the one before the penultimate one, on Strawberry rhubarb jam. And immediately I was plunged into a heartfelt cry against the digital world:
"I realise again why I enjoyed this space, and I also realise what I really dislike about it. I can’t stand digital marketing. I don’t want to be a Pinterest genius, or an SEO scientist, or a fucking reality TV star"
And yet, after just one more post - I don't count that brief last one after a gap of two years on salsa - there she is doing exactly what she says she hates. And doing it still.
What happened? The rhubarb and strawberry jam by the way is rather delicious looking and probably worth a try.
At the end of that post she says:
"This jam reflects another aspect of why I will never give up food writing; the cookbooks. They are what got me started at The Sugar Hit, they have been my favourite thing for most of my life, and they sustain me to this day." (The recipe was adapted from a cookbook in her possession.)
There is no sign of this life online today though - or maybe there is but it's all on Facebook and Instagram. Maybe that brief salsa post was a failed attempt to get back into it.
So I am left with a whole lot of questions about what happened to Sarah Coates. On the Instagram page that I can no longer access I saw this cake. Did she get cancer I wonder? Did she have some kind of mental breakdown after/during writing about strawberry and rhubarb jam? Did she get fat and then get anorexic - now that's really fanciful? Why the interest in youth in care? Of course it doesn't matter to me, but I feel about her a bit as I feel about some of my ancestors when I come to write them up on my family website. Tantalising questions arise about why, how, and what happened? Mostly because the information is sparse, but something of note obviously happened. And I think I have the same questions about her. She must now be in her early thirties, so a whole life ahead of her still. I wonder whether she will return to writing about food, which at one point she found to be really important:
"Taste is a full fifth of the ways in which we experience the world. That shit is important."
And she wrote so well about her recipes. I looked at a couple of them and found them to be interesting, from a food point of view, and also from a personal point of view. They weren't just recipes. There was always a bit of a preamble, sometimes a lengthy one on this and that. A personality shone through as she taught me new stuff - like the tang zhong method of baking in her recipe for Tang zhong chocolate babka, which I found through a more recent post on Pumpkin cinnamon rolls, which I looked at because of my own recent post on cinnamon scrolls. And I have to say that cinnamon scrolls have been popping up everywhere of late it seems.
If you are into baking then The sugar hit is a blog for you, even if it is 'dead'. There are 55 pages of posts of various kinds of sweet things. Because she obviously had a love for food and for cooking it as well.
"What do I like about food? Well, it tastes good. Too obvious? Probably. But think about it. What can be relied upon to put a spring in your step, to brighten your day, to make you feel good as easily and cheaply as food?" Sarah Coates
I just hope it continues to brighten her day.
And I also came across a recipe for 'crullers' which is on my list of 'to do' posts. Life is just full of little coincidences.