These are the hardest words I’ve ever had to write to a food product, but I have to be honest with you and with myself, and tell you that it’s over between us.
Before you wonder what it is you’ve done to make me leave, please know: It isn’t you. It’s me. According to Johns Hopkins University, 75 percent of Jews are lactose intolerant. I’ve been lying to myself for many, many years now, Cheese, but it is time I finally admit that I am one of them.
We had an amazing run, Cheese. From those innocent days of Kraft singles and string cheese through those experimental college years of Stilton and Gruyere, you’ve been a constant in my life – the first food I ever truly loved.
I remember discovering goat cheese and thinking that I had tasted Heaven. Some snickered when a girl friend declared, “Havarti tastes like love.” But I didn’t snicker. I knew exactly what she meant.
You were sweet. You were salty. With blue, veiny abandon, you were sometimes a bit nasty. My mother warned me that you were bad for me, but that just made me want you more. I had you first thing in the morning, spread out on my bagel, and I twirled you around my tongue atop pasta any evening I thought I could get away with it. I loved it when you were soft, and oh, how I loved it when you were hard.
But I can’t go on like this.
I’m of Ashkenazi descent, Cheese, and there’s this thing called familial hypercholesterolemia that affects my people with a greater frequency than the rest of the world. (You knew, the first time I refused a cheeseburger, that my Jewish-ness would eventually come between us.) I’m at an increased risk of having my heart broken by you… well, not broken so much as stopped. Clogged up with cholesterol.
I have to protect myself; after all, I’m a married woman and a mother. I can’t just go about, cavorting with any food product I like, as though there were no consequences.
You will still be a presence in my life, Cheese. My children adore you, and there’s no reason to keep you away from them. But my days of gobbling up their half-eaten pizza slices are over. I will not allow you to use my children to get back together with me – so don’t even try it.
It will be difficult at first to get used to life without you. You were my go-to middle-of-the-night snack through all three of my pregnancies. You were the only thing that made lox and bagels make sense together. You were an appetizer, a main course and a dessert – sometimes all in one meal.
There is no replacement for you – I wouldn’t insult you by introducing soy cheese into my life. I’m not cruel. Or stupid. And so, for the rest of my days, I will walk around with a cheese-size hole in my heart.
But it is for my heart that I must say goodbye to you. Shredded, melted, grated – no matter how you slice it, you are a thing of beauty, Cheese. I will miss you.
Ode to Cheese