This is the third post I’ve written on this subject – I’ve somehow unwittingly created a series on the my transition to a cruelty free, plant based lifestyle. First there was “Transitioning to a cruelty-free lifestyle” and then, “My transition to cruelty free: no eggs“. Writing about giving up all things dairy (yes, even cheese) seemed like the next logical thing to share – especially because unless the word is ‘bacon’, ‘cheese’ is usually the word that completes the sentence “I couldn’t go Vegan, I couldn’t give up ____.”!
I’ve mentioned it before, but I didn’t turn Vegan overnight. Well, I did… but I didn’t either. I became a ‘transitioning’ vegan overnight, eating through our stocks of non-Vegan food rather than waste it, but refusing to purchase or eat anything outside of that 99% of the time. There was one main exception to that, which I’ll mention later on. One of the last things I had to eat through, and that followed me through my transition for about four months, was my stash of chocolate.
The Chocolate Stash
My hoard of sweet, creamy, delicious chocolate has been around for years now. Easter eggs. Lindt truffles. Thorntons collection boxes. Terry’s chocolate orange. You name it, it was probably in there somewhere, at some point! Every time I nearly eat it all, another occasion has fallen (Christmas, Easter, my birthday) and it would get filled up all over again! Because you see, I used to be able to eat a whole chocolate orange, or Easter egg, in one evening (or one breakfast!). However, when I made my resolution to be healthier a few years ago, a side effect of that has been my obsession for the sweet stuff. I can take it or leave it now, believe it or not, and so it takes me a quite a while to get through a big box of chocolates.
So my transition to dairy free was definitely staggered. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts – I was a meat eating, dairy consuming, egg enjoying regular member of society for years. I tapered off with my chocolate and made peace with it. The point of turning vegan… or going plant based, wasn’t to somehow ‘punish’ myself, and the aim is to be in this for the long term.
I savoured the chocolate to begin with but, by the end, I didn’t even want it any more
After I initially started eating a plant based diet, I savoured the chocolate to begin with but, by the end, I didn’t even want it any more. I noticed if I had more than a couple of bites, my stomach felt funny and any enjoyment I might have previously enjoyed was overshadowed by the thoughts of the cows that had suffered just for an unhealthy, sugar-filled treat (dramatic, I know!). I ended up adding the last chocolates into bakes that I took to work, just to be rid of them quicker and so that at least others got enjoyment out of them.
What about milk?
I’ve not had dairy milk in the fridge for years now – I was never a big fan, and prefer to use unsweetened almond milk when making oatmeal or smoothies, or when baking up a few treats so I confess I had no change there. Although I did used to order Skinny Cappuccinos when drinking coffee out, I just started asking for non-dairy milk instead: 8/10 they have soy in, 1/10 they have nothing. Occasionally (1/10… this was not scientific) a place will have coconut or almond milk (Starbucks do coconut milk now, and some independent coffee shops have almond or oat too).
I had to stop having ice-creams though, which is something that I did used to like indulging in during the summer – can’t beat a Mr.Whippy with raspberry sauce, right?! Well, you can. You can get these awesome strawberry Cornetto-like cones from Tesco, and then there’s my other favourite which was vegan already: ice lollies! Giving up ice-cream was a similar feeling to my feelings on traditional milk chocolate: the guilt outweighed the pleasure, and made my choice a much happier one.
The cheese though.
Yes, the cheese. Cheese was a lot harder than chocolate – I got cravings still for cheese (which, it has been suggested by a study done at the University of Michigan, is actually an addictive substance, like cigarettes, or sugar!). My favourite stumble-home dinner as a student (ok, it didn’t stop with the ending of my time as a student) was chips and cheese.
Cheese on toast was a sneaky treat I liked to get from the canteen at work (before I decided that that was probably contributing to my weight gain).
Goats cheese would generally tempt me at all times at restaurants, especially if ‘caramelized onion’ was also involved.
A Greek feta salad was, at one point, my serial go-to lunch for weeks on end.
I was a cheese-loving fiend. My consumption had reduced considerably since my resolution to be healthier, but when I indulged, I went for it.
The great cheese confession
This is where I admit that I purchased some dairy cheese for myself (and Adam) after my decision to stop buying dairy and so on.
We had an annual tradition, around Christmas time, of buying: a fresh loaf of bread (something like ciabatta or sourdough), a whole Camembert, a delicious chutney (if there was none in the fridge) and chopping some crudités. And we would eat the entire lot, without fail. Gooey, baked Camembert, especially when cooked with flavours such as extra virgin olive oil, fresh rosemary and garlic cloves, is absolutely amazing. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it’s not! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I thoroughly did not enjoy the stomach ache that came after, but sometimes, it’s worth it.
Regrets are pointless
This was quite early into my transition, so I didn’t feel too bad about it at the time, to be honest. Again: I’m not in this for self-punishment. I feel bad about it now, but there is also little point in regrets. Instead, I look to the future – this year, I think we’ll either make or buy in some dairy-free cheeses and just upgrade our little tradition to a cruelty-free version.
Do I miss dairy?
Ah, the crux of the matter. Do I miss dairy? In short: no, not a bit. I get more annoyed these days that milk is added to so. Many. Things. Sometimes, I’ll pick something up in the supermarket and just assume that it’s suitable, and then a cursory check of the ingredients (it’s already second nature, now) shows the word milk in bold. Cue a sigh, popping whatever it is back on the shelf, and trying to find an alternative!
I think there are reason I don’t miss cheese, or chocolate, or milky-coffees:
- I don’t view this as a negative. I view this as a positive (albeit tiny) impact I am choosing to make on the world. I can have that Cadbury’s bar, but I don’t want to (for… all the reasons).
- I still have cheese. And chocolate. And milky coffees. And even ice-cream! Recently I made both cream cheese and sour cream, completely dairy free! Delicious. I have a new chocolate stash to work through, one that is entirely vegan. Milky coffees = soy, almond, or oat milk. Ice-cream is also still a go, just harder to find and pretty expensive but, it’s still not a treat food. It should be expensive, to discourage regular purchase, in my opinion.
And that’s about all I have to say about dairy right now, I think. Please comment below and let me know your thoughts – whether you don’t have dairy for other reasons, are thinking about it, or even if you are just a proud-cheese-eating person reading up on the taboo subject of Veganism. I love a good chat!