Confessions of a former cheese addict
By Maia Hall
Aside from the classic “where do you get your protein” question, as a reasonably new vegan I’m constantly questioned about no longer being able to eat cheese. It’s like people feel obliged to remind me of the foods that I’m missing out on.
I’ve talked to many people who are vegan and dairy-free, who have all loved that dangerously addictive substance (cheese), but have chosen to cleanse themselves and escape from its allure for the sake of the environment, their health and their ethics. I’ve also talked to countless others who are still influenced by the harsh addiction. Nineteen-year-old cheese lover Jayden told me that while giving it up may give him a clearer conscience, “I guess if I didn’t have cheese in my life I’d have no choice but to never eat pizza again.” Poor Jayden has the best intentions, but is enslaved by the evil force of addiction.
Yes, your melty cheese toastie looks good, but so does being able to control your personal impact on the planet. When you do things that reflect your morals, it makes you happy, healthier and makes you feel like you’re living more purposefully.
I’m aware this all sounds very wholesome, but I too am no stranger to a casual eating frenzy. However, being mindful about the types of low quality snack food that I shove into my mouth makes me feel better than a cheese toastie ever did. Being mindful about my food gives eating (my favourite pastime) more purpose. And it makes the food taste better.
Since going vegan, other proud cheese addict survivors have helped make my entry to ‘the darkside’ a little easier. For example, there are several staple cheesy meals that everyone loves and can't bear to give up. Things like pizza, mac and cheese and my personal favourite, cheesecake. Who knew the internet was full of knowledgeable foodies just waiting for the opportunity to share free advice on how to make a gooey mac and cheese from nutritional yeast, or toppings that will make your vegan pizza taste amazing. You can even find tips on how to make things like cookie dough cheesecake, something that still has me drooling. If you couldn’t tell, I am well onboard with the food > sex memo. Don’t let me being vegan make you think I’ve lowered my cheesecake standards.
I was well addicted to cheese, but now that I’ve been to therapy (did I mention that vegan cheesecake?), seeing the rest of the world’s reaction to the loss of cheese just seems a bit dramatic. The NZ Herald’s article Wearable bacon patch released for vegans struggling with cravings points out how emotionally invested we are in animal products as a society. While I understand the temptations, we could all benefit from taking a step back from the cheese and appreciate the other valuable things in our lives.