I am Leslie and cheese is my boyfriend. Even when my husband and sweet schmoopy love of my life was alive, he knew that cheese was my illicit habit, my thing that I could not get enough of (besides my husband, of course.) He actually gave me gifts of cheese, sometimes a good brie, other times a gorgeous feta from a Greek importer. I was raised mostly vegetarian, and as I stopped completely eating chicken and other poultry, I claimed cheese as my primary protein besides the fish I maybe ate once a week. Cheese? Ate at least once a day. Sometimes once a meal. My mother once told a friend that her kids’ favorite food groups were potatoes and cheese.
Mommy was not lying.
So it was with much resistance that I took in a suggestion from my trainer, Victor Ayala, who had
tortured worked me into a weight loss of 12 pounds and at least one dress size: “You’d lose more,” he said, in that way that forces you to not rest on your laurels too much, “if you cut our meat..”
“I don’t really eat meat,” I said.
“My dear,” Victor said, eyebrow skyward, “cheese is meat.”
Although my beloved fromage is not technically the flesh of a living thing, it is an animal product and can cause inflammation (It’s also a thing to avoid if you’re about to sing, as I am wont to do.) When I was clean eating two years ago, I limited myself once a week or so to only the best quality cheese, but when our little one came to live with us, all that went out the window. Cheese became my crutch again. But between Victor and my beloved almost-sister Rissa, a longtime vegan who has sent me several vegan cookbooks and recipes a month since last summer, I feel I’m a crossroads.
Which is not to say that I am about to become vegan, because I am not and I really don’t want to. I am not going to just say I will never sample an exquisite brie or sprinkle aged Parmesan Reggiano on a perfect tomato soup, because I AM GONNA. But I want to explore playing with it, cutting back and seeing what new cooking adventures await me. This will upset real vegans who have ethical reasons for their lifestyle, like I’m dabbling and being disrespectful. But it’s where I’m at.
So far, I’ve adapted some recipes, some of which were already vegan and some which just included stuff I didn’t have. I did a vegan tomato bisque, a vegan cauliflower casserole and, most deliciously, vegan pesto with cashews, which creamily take the role of both traditional pine nuts and the cheese. A year ago I would have told you the point of pesto was cheese. I still think it might be.
The point is, I am learning. I am growing. I am not breaking up with cheese. But we are agreeing to see a little less of each other.