Realizing I’m lactose intolerant is really putting a strain on my relationship with cheese. I’ve suspected my dairy sensitivity since I was a kid and didn’t ever want milk with cereal, or even cookies. Milk has never been my thing, but cheese is a different story. A hearty slice of an extra sharp cheddar on a thick slice of grained wheat bread, or some brie mixed with strawberry jam, even a chunk of bitter blue cheese with some strawberries, all qualify among my favorite snacks even though my gut disagrees. People with a lactose intolerance cannot digest the sugars in milk, especially cow milk. This can result in a calcium deficiency since dairy products are usually where people receive their daily dose of the vitamin. Not having the proper amount of calcium results in weak joints and bones, height shrinking, and spine and back problems. Beans and greens got your back though and can give you the sweet calcium your body craves.
But let’s get back to cheese. In addition to being delicious, cheese is great for your teeth. The calcium makes your teeth strong, and the low lactose levels help prevent cavities. If you’re a vegetarian, cheese can be a prime source of protein, because let’s be honest, tofu doesn’t always get the job done. The older the cheese is, the lower the levels of lactose are in the cheese, so if you’re lactose intolerant you might be able to get away with eating cheeses like aged cheddars and bleu cheese. Also, everyone loves cheese. Nearly every country and culture has figured out how to make nasty milk into a totally groovy cheese product, you dig?
While Americans consume thirty pounds of cheese annually, America is not the chief consumer of cheese, in fact America barely makes it in the top twenty consumers. Europeans take cheese consumption much more seriously, but this might be because America isn’t on board with the stinkier and moldier of the cheeses and the way meals are designed in Europe emphasize snacking on cheeses and breads more than the typical breakfast-lunch-dinner pattern we see in the States.
I leave you with this slideshow of grilled cheese sandwich porn, complete with a seductive voice actress to tell you of the glories of Wisconsin Cheddar. It’s legend, wait for it, dairy.