Life Without Cheese

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).

fondue
Guaranteed gut-bomb

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.

stinkycheese
Stinky, moldy fromages that my husband and I saw on a trip to Paris in 2007.

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.

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