Friday, October 23, 2009

Conquering the cheese addiction

You know, I used to be omni 'til about 2006 when I went lacto-ovo vegetarian (ok, I ate fish too, I really wasn't very vegetarian at all!) And it's only this year that I have been vegan. I, like so many others, thought I could never go vegan because I could never give up cheese. Oh how I loved super cheesy pizzas, cheese plates with the stinkiest bluest cheese available, good ol' comfort foods cheese on toast and macaroni cheese, ricotta and spinach anything, parmesan with pastas and risottos... I loved it. I had already stopped drinking milk and using butter but cheese was so hard! Cheese was the last thing for me to quit.

The only way I think I managed it was by educating myself on the horrific truth about it - about the miserable, painful and short lives of the cows, the millions of newborn calves born to keep their mothers lactating then sent to veal crates before being slaughtered as babies, the no longer profitable cows sent to slaughter whilst pregnant and the unborn calves being cut out of their stomachs. For some reason I had always thought cows just produced milk all the time and never really thought about how that makes no sense. Of course, these details are kept secret from the general public, the dairy industry doesn't want people to know the nasty side of it.

Add a little common sense in there - why on earth would the human body be so poorly designed as to need the milk of another animal, past weaning, to survive? Touted as being a good source of calcium and protein (ignoring the high saturated fat content) it could still be good for you, right? The protein provided by milk releases acid into the blood, and in order to neutralise this acid your body draws calcium from your bones which is then excreted in your urine. The calcium in milk is not easily absorbed by your body, hence the HIGHER rates of osteoporosis in dairy consuming populations. If that wasn't enough, the high mineral content of cows milk puts a dangerous strain on human infants' kidneys hence the recommendation that infants don't drink normal milk in their first year.

And if all this was not strong enough for me to rely on when confronted with a cheese plate, I could count on reminding myself what it was I was tempted to eat. Secretions from an animals reproductive organs, full of both cow hormones, artificial growth hormones and antibiotics, mixed with the pus that inevitably gets squeezed out of the cows udder due to the mastitis most dairy cows get from constantly being milked (there is actually an acceptable level of pus allowed in milk measured by the 'somatic cell count', gross). To aid in the cheese making process, juice from a slaughtered calf's stomach is also added. Then this already revolting mix is left to rot, for bacteria and mould to cover and predigest it.

And people look at tofu, essentially mashed up beans, and think THAT is revolting...

But, through all of this I knew I would always love the taste of cheese regardless. I could quite happily not eat it anymore because the thought began to really gross me out. But I knew it would still taste DIVINE. That is until I ordered a takeaway pizza from Mr Naturals and asked for vegan cheese as usual. But halfway through the pizza I realised something tasted funny, that it tasted a bit weird but familiar. And realised that the strange flavour was real cheese on the pizza - they must have mucked up my order. And it was gross. It tasted a bit rancid, was cloying, and overpowered the other flavours on the pizza. I couldn't be 100% sure that they mucked up my order but it made me feel sick and I couldn't finish it. That was my first realisation that I really no longer liked cheese at all.

This wasn't a one off either. Having found bits of cheese hidden in things I have found the familiar flavour rancid and rotten tasting.

So the good news is the one thing I thought I would always secretly want is now repulsive to me. Cheese addiction conquered!

I really don't think I could ever go back to an omni or lacto-ovo diet, it repulses me so much. So what really puzzles me are vegans who go back to a diet with dairy despite knowing all this? How do they do it?


  1. I ate a bit of fetta on a pizza the other night.... out of having a lapse of caring.. and it was gross... and I had an upset stomach all night...

    lesson. learned.

  2. I have been thinking about cheese lately - I feel I could never go vegan because I love cheese so much - have been trying to reduce my dairy but the cheese is the stumbling block - so this post is very helpful

  3. I have heard a quote once: "If you're not vegan now, you never were"... kind of what you mean in your last sentence? (I thought the one stumbling block for me would be cheese, too, but once I cut it out I found I didn't miss it!)

  4. Carla, funny how you have it again and find it's gross and not all you dreamt it to be! My stomach felt horrible all night afterwards too.

    Theresa, that is a great quote - and exactly what I mean. I just wonder how anyone can go back, sometimes I think it would be easier to not care, but theres no way I can 'uncare'! And you're right, cheese seems so hard to give up 'til you actually do it and really, it's fine!

    Johanna, I'm glad this post was helpful for you - I hope you manage to give it up. Taking the first step for anything is always the hardest, but once you do it it always turns out easier than you realised!

  5. Sometimes I think very fondly of cheese, in a nostalgic sort of way, but reading this post has made me realise that I can never go back to eating it. Yuck.

  6. Steph, yeah I would have to have my brain erased to go back to it. Oh, and probably something to stop the stomach discomfort from it!

  7. I find that strange too, how vegan/vego friends have gone back to not just lacto ovo but to eating all animal products. That said, i am only recently vegan after having been vego for years, and there was a fair amount of willful ignorance in my choice to eat eggs and dairy products whilst knowing, for example, that many of the 'free range' eggs on supermarket shelves could not be free range due to the discrepancy between capacity for free range egg production in Australian farms and the (greater) amount sold to consumers. Whilst this makes me personally ashamed at my own choices over the years it makes me more empathetic, if no less upset, at the fact that so many choose to ignore the harmful impacts of their diet on other creatures.

  8. It's no use, I've tried and tried, even reading interesting and informative articles such as this has not managed to help cure my cheese addiction, I know it's serious, even consulted my doctor and other health professionals who don't seem to take me seriously. The usual response is "everything in moderation, you'll be fine just cut down and watch your intake". But I'm struggling. I need to eat cheese with most meals, and meals that are centered around cheese, potatoe and cheese bake, pasta dishes with parmesan and other various grated cheese's to top off with, pizza w double cheese and cheese filled crusts, macaroni and cheese, cheese sauce to cover my vegies, toasted cheese and tomato sanga's, deep fried crumbed camembert. I can't even eat my baked beans on toast without it being smothered in grated cheese. I also love my red wine and although I'm not an alcoholic and drink in moderation, it's always with cheese because they are the perfect marriage. Damn whoever invented cheese...I'm sorry to all the cows and may God save my soul.

  9. Anon, it is strange isn't it? I want to be able to join in sometimes, but I can't enjoy it because I know what it is.

    Michael, are you taking the piss??