Smile and Say…

Cheese. Everyone is obsessed with it. From movie quotes, like in She’s The Man, to song lyrics like in ‘Big Cheese’ by Nirvana, this divine dairy product is loved by all (except vegans, duh). Goats, cows, sheep, and even buffalo are the wonderful beings that bring us our praised product. Not only is cheese sustainable on its own, but it is even better melted between two pieces of bread, or blanketed over macaroni. In my eyes, cheese is the rightful ruler of all seven kingdoms, the savior of all bland food, and now, the silent killer.

Slowly I became infatuated with the salty slayer once I had my own kitchen in college. My dinners turned into cheese with some veggies, my breakfast changed from eggs and toast to cheesy bread, and for a snack I’d have, yup you guessed it, string cheese. Now some of you may be saying, ‘wow this girl eats a lot of cheese’, but think about it, all of your favorite foods have cheese on them. Italian food=mozzarella, Romano, ricotta, parmesan; Mexican food=Monterey jack, liquid queso, queso fresco. So, it’s not just me!

As someone who is athletic and in pretty good shape (if I do say so myself), I didn’t think cheese would hurt me. That’s not how I wanted my relationship with cheese to work. It was supposed to be a love-love relationship not a love-hate relationship. When I returned home from school in May I had a doctor’s appointment. Just your typical yearly check-up, right? Wrong.

My cholesterol was through the roof. And I don’t mean just a couple points higher than normal, I mean I have the cholesterol of a 65 year old man, and I am a 21 year old woman. There is something seriously wrong with that picture. So what does my doctor say to me? “Stop eating cheese or your arteries will clog and you’ll have a heart attack by the time you are 30.” You know that embarrassed face used in Pokémon and other anime, where the characters face turns red and a giant tear drop forms on their forehead? Well that was me. Not only was I being separated from my one true (food) love, but cheese was seriously harming me! You hurt me cheese, you hurt me real bad. So I started my transition, my semi vegan, but still eating most dairy and meat, diet, as I call it. Basically, I was eliminating cheese and embracing fake cheese, or non-dairy substitutes as they call it.

“Fake cheese is a friend not a foe”, my mom said as we walked down the aisle of the grocery store. I rolled my eyes. Putting the word ‘fake’ in front of any food product isn’t going to make me want to eat it. What even is fake cheese? How do you make cheese without dairy? It’s not cheese at all. It’s not “kind of cheese” or “a little bit cheesy”, it is tapioca flour, pea protein, and blah blah blah.

“Just because it looks like cheese doesn’t mean I’m going to eat it”, I told my mother. But I conceded to the non-dairy alternative. We bought dairy free cheese, it came in yellow cheddar, that obnoxious, overly processed color any true cheese lover detests, and mozzarella, so I can still eat lasagna.

Now as skeptical as I am about the way this “cheese” is made, being able to top off my tacos with something that resembles my former love is comforting. Mixing some of the mozzarella into my spaghetti is also something I am grateful for. However, choosing to eat the substitute on its own is not for the weary hearted. Toast with a slice of American cheese is no more, grilled cheese is a thing of the past, and the satisfaction I once felt from eating a handful of shredded mozzarella will be a void in my heart. Fake cheese is not something that flourishes on its own. It’s not a delicacy or a treat. Fake cheese is exactly what it says it is, fake.

So while I am able to sprinkle “cheese” here and there, I’ve reached a stage in my life (21 years old mind you), where I lead a life without the euphoric sensations of eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese after a night of drinking or sinking my teeth into a slice of cheesy bread to soak up my bad decisions.

Maybe one day my cholesterol will get tired of ruining my life and decide to drop 100 points. Until that day comes, I’ll be enjoying salad when my friends decide to go out for pizza.

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