I grew up in a small town in Vermont, passing by pastures of dairy cows on my way to school each morning. Cheese was a diet staple: macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese, cheese and crackers, cheese on broccoli and on top of potatoes. After swimming lessons in the summer, we stopped at one of the many “creemee” stands for a maple creemee (you may know it as soft-served ice cream) or a “swirl” (two flavors, like maple and vanilla, swirled together–yum!). When Ben & Jerry’s first ice cream store opened in a renovated gas station in Burlington, it became a regular high school hangout.
Recently I returned to my hometown and I couldn’t help seeing the irony in my being allergic to cow’s milk. No samples of Cabot cheddar or licks of creemees for me (the stands were on every corner beckoning me!). I had to turn down my mother’s nightly offer of cheese and crackers, which she still enjoys with a glass of wine before dinner.
Some habits are hard to break.
But I’ve had to break mine.
If I eat just a smidge of dairy or a bite of egg, I’ll feel like a bull stampeded into my gut, my throat will constrict, and my face will become tomato-red. I never had a problem during all those years of drinking milk for healthy teeth and strong bones. How odd to develop such a severe allergy to something I grew up eating virtually every day. But now my body definitely doesn’t like casein or whey, the proteins found in dairy products.
Experts say that children often outgrow their milk allergies, but those of us who develop them later in life aren’t so lucky. Fortunately, I’ve found some wonderful substitutes. Instead of ice cream, I enjoy natural sorbet without corn syrup (which is lower calorie too). I put almond, rice, or hemp milk in my morning coffee. Almond yogurt has recently hit our local grocery stores, and I can now eat one of my past favorite breakfasts: yogurt with fruit and granola. I also make all sorts of delicious smoothies. Since I’m also allergic to soy and have celiac disease, I must carefully read the labels on “dairy-free” items (so many have soy!), but Amy’s Kitchen has a to-die-for mac and cheese that is dairy-, soy- and gluten-free. I did a happy dance the first time I tried it! I also don’t seem to react to goat and sheep cheese, though I know this isn’t always the case with some milk-allergic persons.
I’m curious. What foods did you grow up eating that you can’t eat today? And what substitute foods have you discovered?