I Miss Cheese


An inevitable truth of being A WOMAN YOUR AGE, in any decade, is The Food Reckoning. Our maturation into the understanding of food as fuel and medicine is something I consider a gift we earn. Not only for the good it offers, but also understanding, and subsequently avoiding, how food can throw a wrench into our system. Whether it’s the plight acne wreaks post-frites, or breaking up with gluten when intolerant, balancing a diet that’s formulated to best run our operating systems is a lifelong practice.

I personally grew up consuming foods from the three major food groups; sugar, carbs, and cheese. Despite the discipline ballet necessitated, I had a genetic mutation that allowed me to never diet and indulge in my admittedly disastrous one. Evolution through age helped me grow out of the three food stage, travel broadened my palate, and I needed to start relying on more premium octane to fuel my body’s engine as I have become increasingly active now that my daughter is in her teen years.

In the evolution of my Big Three Diet, my sweet tooth ran away from home mysteriously overnight during my college years. And my carb propensity mellowed when I became vegetarian about 25 years ago. Coming from a family who’s core comfort cuisine was Eastern European in origins, explaining not wanting to eat meat as a kid was a topic I shelved until moving out onto my own, and declaring "no more." 

My views on “how difficult is it being vegetarian?” The answer is unequivocally, “not.” And despite entire cultures successfully existing on vegetarian diets, modern western medicine is decidedly dismissive of an entire half of the globe where these plant based diets have been adopted for centuries. The amount of times I defend my, or my daughter's, vegetarianism while pinned within the four walls of an exam room is surprisingly frequent.

In mapping my personal evolution with food, it also struck me that there are also many things that enter our diet which were absent in our earlier decades. Ultimately leading me to questions; “is it age?” or “is it what my body is being exposed to?” When it comes to food and drink, there are “badges” of adulthood for some, which are an albatross for others. I weeded that garden in the past year by cutting all alcohol out of my life.

Going teetotal was much the same way as going vegetarian in that I never miss it. However, I find it an easier abstinence to fly under the radar with. I am not confronted by people who challenge my motives, nor do I find myself on the receiving end of monologues regarding how much alcohol a person usually consumes (which is seemingly inevitable with meat).

Whether it is out of respect for those who might be expecting, presumed designated drivers, or empathy for those who suffer from addiction, there’s barely an eyebrow raised when people pass on alcohol. And for the “oh girl, but it’s Wine Wednesday,” “it’s 5:00 somewhere,” or “why a book club, and not wine club?” crew, we’re simply not each other's social jam. And that’s cool. Not being invited to events that center around alcohol creates zero holes in my social groove.

In rewinding back to my original Dietary Trifecta, my sugar love ran away, and my carb craziness mellowed. However, there is an outlier; cheese.

Cheese is joy, comfort, love, and magic, churned into physical happiness. We didn’t have a family pet growing up, but we had cheese. We had it fondued, sliced from a Cracker Barrel package at Gram and Gramp’s, and Dad even made special trips across town to Farmer Joe’s for the good weekend snacking cheese. So as you can gather, cheese was not taken lightly in my family.

However, in my healthification this past year, I made the decision to also break up with cheese. But in the cheese instance, I have extended exceptions for the occasional slice of pizza, caprese, and nachos. Also for food it’s integrated into when we're out and about. But in all that compromise, nary a slice or cube is snuck or snacked.

It’s not like I spend the days drooling over cheese porn on the internet to get my fix, but it is the one restriction I feel in my regimine. It’s quite obvious to me that although I am not an emotional eater, cheese is an emotional entity in my life. Not just because it’s awesome, but the association with my childhood and family.

I’ve added more seeds and nuts into my day, and that zaps my physical craving that once had me grabbing a slice of cheese. And I found cheese is something I can easily consume in moderation, while getting my sentimental fix. But in all the balance, I have a growing nostalgia for it’s role in my life.

What about you?

What’s the cheese in your life?

How do you balance it?

Is it an all or nothing proposition … or one where you can enjoy a controlled indulgence?

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