For me, one of the hardest things about going dairy-free was giving up cheese. I used to love cheese in all its forms — hard, soft, mild, sharp, stinky, and especially melty. One of my favorite foods was fondue, a big pot of melted Swiss cheese that I would dip cubes of French bread into (then would subsequently spend the next few hours regretting as the lactose churned in my distended belly).
What makes giving up cheese so challenging is the ubiquitousness of cheese in the American diet. Most of the time when I go out to eat, at least half the menu items contain cheese. It’s no wonder I was addicted to the stuff for much of my life.
But you can always ask for something to be made without cheese, unless it’s the main ingredient. Once, at a food truck, I asked for a Patty Melt without the cheese, and the guy made fun of me. “It’s not a Patty Melt without the cheese!” he scoffed. “Okay, so there’s no ‘melt’ in it,” I admitted, “but you can put the burger and the grilled onions on the rye bread, and it’ll be plenty tasty.” Then I found out the customer before me asked for the same thing. You are not alone.
Cooking without cheese is even easier: I just omit cheese from everything I make, including omelettes, sandwiches, even nachos. You may be wondering: Are there non-dairy cheese alternatives that truly mimic the taste and texture of real cheese? The short answer is no. Not that I have found. But some do a better job than others. I’ll be reviewing some of these products in future blog posts, so stay tuned.
Do I miss cheese? Yes and no. I have beautiful memories of a sharp aged Hook’s cheddar on a charcuterie plate, little pockets of goat cheese embedded in a potato pancake, a classic grilled cheese sandwich dipped in tomato soup. But I wouldn’t even dream of eating any of those things now, for fear that my gastrointestinal system would implode. It’s just not worth it… But we’ll always have Paris.