After my third son was born, he had colic, which turned out to be an intolerance to dairy products — all of them — so I had to give up all dairy until he was done nursing. Of course I did it for him, but I made out with a block of cream cheese like it was a long-lost lover as soon as he weaned.
The thing about cheese is you can get classy with it: Wine and cheese tasting, anyone? Or trashy with it: Hit me with a big squirt of cheese from a can. I can mainline that shit like a motherfucker.
Almost every Saturday night, you can find me in my kitchen making nachos for my family. I grate the cheddar into a big pile, and then I take handful of it and shove it in my mouth. It’s extra-sharp, hard and cold, and it leaves me wanting more. As I watch it melt over the corn chips in the oven, I take out the tub of sour cream and scoop (notice I said “scoop,” not “dip”) the chips in — an appetizer for my appetizer, if you will.
I love blue cheese dressing, especially homemade. A good smoked Gouda turns me right on, and feta cheese is my favorite when tossed in a Greek salad with large kalamata olives and cherry tomatoes. Folding squares of American cheese in half over and over until I have a stack of tiny cheese squares to pop in my mouth is a talent I have mastered, and I am proud.
I haven’t even gotten into pizza yet, or lasagna. I love a good cheese ball during the holidays, and damn, have you ever had baked brie topped with honey and candied nuts? If not, get on that shit right now.
Do I love cheese? Um, Is the pope Catholic? Do bears shit in the woods? Fuck yeah, I love cheese. Ooey-gooey melty cheese.
Am I addicted? No, obviously not.
Wait, maybe I am.
Shit, take me cheese. If I am going to be addicted to something, it might as well be dairy crack. I just stuck my finger into a tub of herbed goat cheese sans cracker, and yeah, it was worth it. Call me an addict, and pass the muenster.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, you can imagine when I hear there is a book out titled, The Cheese Trap: How Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Get Healthy, written by Neal Barnard, physician and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, I feel the need to chime in.
To be clear, I am not a physician, nor am I president of anything, and I’m certainly not an expert on nutrition, but shit, I know my cheese simply because I have been eating it for over 40 years. Pass the queso, and let’s talk about how giving up cheese is 50 shades of fucked up. The horror.
Barnard is anti-cheese, obviously: “Loaded with calories, high in sodium, packing more cholesterol than steak, and sprinkled with hormones — if cheese were any worse, it would be Vaseline […].
Some foods are fattening. Others are addictive. Cheese is both — fattening and addictive.”
Honestly, if Vaseline tastes like cheese, I would eat it. I’d spread it on toast. Don’t judge me. Milk contains casein, which contains opiate molecules, and when you turn milk into cheese, Barnard says it concentrates the casein: “A cup of milk contains about 7.7 grams of protein, 80 percent of which is casein, more or less. Turning it into cheddar cheese multiplies the protein count seven-fold, to 56 grams. It is the most concentrated form of casein in any food in the grocery store.”
While I agree it is important for us to know what is in our food, cheese is something I am still not willing to give up. For one, I don’t have to. I am not lactose intolerant, nor do I suffer any harmful side effects from consuming large quantities. And two, Barnard is not the boss of me!
The thought of giving it up gives me hives, and that is reason enough to keep shoving any kind of cheese I want into my dairy-hole.
If you have a specific food allergy or reaction to cheese, of course you give it up, but if you don’t suffer from any of those things? Then you eat cheese. Period.
Barnard goes on to say we shouldn’t eat cheese, or any food that isn’t good for us, ever. And we shouldn’t let our kids eat it either: “If you have children, it would be best to never introduce them to unhealthful foods at all. The taste for cheese is a great introduction to childhood obesity.” Oh god, Barnard, you are really going off the rails now.
If cheese is not affecting you in a negative way, and you enjoy a quesadilla or a few slices of Swiss on your sandwich a few times a week, why do we need to stop? Isn’t moderation the key? And listen, if you want to take a fork to an entire cheesecake one wild Saturday night, that is your business. If you can handle it, I say go, baby, go.
I’m not dogging on food research or saying that people don’t need to know what they are consuming. Research on the effects of food is important, but I think the problem with books like this is that they leave so many people feeling shitty about their food choices and guilt-ridden every time they eat something they love.
So if you enjoy cheese, eat cheese. If you want to lose weight, maybe have a little less of it, or back off of something else and enjoy your regular amount of cheese. If it gives you immense pleasure, don’t feel like you need to give it up completely. You don’t want to be a fun sponge at the next dinner party you are invited to, do you? Because I guarantee there is going to be cheese there, and you are going to want to eat it. It’s called living; don’t fight it. Sink your teeth into a wedge or scoop some onto a cracker, and enjoy that dairy crack while you flip off Barnard.