Penchant de Fromage

I love cheese. And who doesn’t?! Saying you dislike cheese is as disturbing to me as someone saying they hate puppies and children.

Did you know that the root of the English word cheese comes from the Latin caseus, which also gives us the word casein, the milk protein that is the basis of cheese? (More on casein in a minute).

Did you know that that Egypt brings us the earliest archeological evidence of cheesemaking which was found in tomb murals that date back to 2000 BC? Or that these cheeses were likely to have been very sour and salty and similar to a cottage cheese or feta in texture?

Did you know that, According to the British Cheese Board, Britain has approximately 700 distinct local cheeses?  It is thought that France and Italy have perhaps 400 each.

Did you know that The United States is the top producer of cheese in the world, with Wisconsin and California leading the states in production? And while the US is the top producer, Greece and France are the top in terms of consumption?

So what does this talk about fromage have to do with anything?

Well, there I was again today…in the grocery store. Same route every time…I stroll through the produce section…always check out the arugula to see if it’s on sale, then my intent is to head towards the meat counter. But, as it always happens, I get distracted along the way…every time. Halfway between the steak and the lettuce, sits my happy place…the small island I seem to get sucked into every time…my Bermuda triangle: The Cheese Section.

I am unable to divert. Sucked in by an invisible force. If I could buy it all I would (aside from goat cheese, of course, which I despise).  The feta in herbed brine, the fresh smoked mozzarella, big hunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano and of course my favorite: BRIE. Also known as the “Queen of Cheeses”…and with good reason. I certainly worship her. The crust is thin, fluffy and white. The cheese is straw yellow, creamy and soft. And it is my drug.

I am legitimately hooked on cheese. Good cheese. Quality cheese. Double your grocery bill cheese. If only I had grown up on cheez whiz instead of brie and gorgonzola I’d have a lot more money in my grocery budget!

I blame my family for exposing me to the culinary delight of it all.  Salads with feta or blue cheese, appetizers of Boursin or Aloutte, tangy bites of ricotta salata or horseradish cheddar.  And I have loved every bite.

There is one thing I know I can count on with 100% certainty when I go to my grandparents’ house. While some grandchildren know that they’ll have fresh baked cookies waiting inside, I always know there will be at least one variety of brie in their house. And it has been that way for as long as I can remember.

Trust me…I am not complaining!  I’m just trying to peel away 29 years of fromage binge.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “The average American consumes 23 gallons of milk and 30 pounds of cheese a year.” I’d give up the milk and eat 53 pounds instead!

I could give up give up every other food in the grocery store if you let me stay on my little dairy island. I am in the midst of full-blown addition. Do you or someone you know have an addition to cheese?

Here are the signs:

1.  Desperate Need for More Cheese

2. Desire to eat only cheese

3. Constipation

4. Nightmares

5. Hallucinations

6. Hearing Voices

7. Social Ineptitude

8. Hearing Convincing Arguments Claiming You Should Hurt Your Neighbor, Carrot Top or Paula Abdul

9. Need for more Cowbell

10. Weight Gain…:(

 

But on a serious note…is cheese really an addictive substance?

Well, much to my surprise and a little bit of research, it appears to be…but why?

Well, it’s certainly not because of its aroma, which is startlingly close to old socks. The first hint of a biochemical explanation came in 1981, when scientists at Wellcome Research Laboratories in Research Triangle Park, N.C., found a substance in dairy products that looked remarkably like morphine. After a complex series of tests, they determined that, surprisingly enough, it actually was morphine. Morphine!!!!!!

By a fluke of nature, the enzymes that produce opiates are not confined to poppies — they also hide inside cows’ livers. The morphine is produced in order to create a calming effect on their young.  This makes sure that their young bond with them and that their young continue to feed.

So traces of morphine can pass into the cow’s bloodstream and end up in milk and milk products. The amounts are far too small to explain cheese’s appeal. But nonetheless, the discovery led scientists on their search for opiate compounds in dairy products.

And as it turns out, milk contains more than just morphine, it also contains casein, which when broken down in digestion releases a lot of opiates!  In cheese, casein is in a much higher concentration so cheese can be far more addictive than milk.

So it’s confirmed…it is possible that I am really and truly, physiologically addicted to cheese!!!  That explains my constant need for more cowbell and desire to tie Paula Abdul up so I never have to hear her whiny voice again!

I need to detox from the dairy. I need to give my body a break.  Having gone gluten-free has led me to be a lot more reliant on dairy than I was before. I know most cheeses are safe so I’ve been a little too dependent on it as a staple to my daily diet. And I can feel it all like a lead weight.

Can I take a break from it for a while? I am seriously worried about dairy withdrawal and worried that the withdrawal will lead to an uncontrollable bender. I just can’t quit you, Cheese!

I’m gonna try…with all my might I’m going to focus on the other food groups. Well…the ones that are left that I can have.  Grains/Wheat, Dairy, Vegetables, Proteins, Fruit…I know I can do it and the anti-dairy possibilities are endless!  And I know I’ll feel less weighed down next week, too.  Until then, I’ll see you in my dreams, Cheese island!

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese? ~ Charles De Gaulle

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