Monday, May 24, 2010

How can anyone be expected to govern a country that has 246 kinds of cheese? - Charles de Gaulle

How can I be expected to govern my healthy eating habits when France alone, has 246 kinds of cheese! So much cheese... So, little time. My name is Becky and I am a cheese-aholic. My journey into the land of gluttonous, coagulated milk excess, began at about age five. My father was a military officer stationed in Germany. Most of my recollections of Europe, in those young years, are from the images captured in photographs, now displayed in my childhood photo albums. But, I do have some very vivid memories departing Germany at age 8, making a stop-over in Amsterdam, Holland. Memories include an annual tulip festival (similar to our Tournament of Roses Parade), and a Minature City, an amazing “to scale” duplicate of everything Holland. Visiting the cramped attic space where Anne Frank and her family hid out as she wrote her internationally acclaimed diary, provided me with a good dose of gratitude, even at my tender age. But, the biggest wonder in my young mind was that the Dutch ate cheese for breakfast! We stayed in an equivalent of a B & B and I anxiously anticipated the breakfast buffet served every morning. Tiny, flaky, home made pastries, fresh cold cut like meats, and best of all cheeses, lots of cheeses. Hard, soft, mild, textured, yellow, white, and pungent. No CoCo Puffs, Pop-Tarts, or Long Johns... just cheeses to suit every palate. I clearly knew, I could easily acclimate to this country, language barrier be damned. There was a magical connection. I fit in. I felt powerful. I felt satiated. And, so my habit began.

I thought I had my addiction “under control” through the years but later recognized it was largely due to financial constraints being a single parent on a strict budget. My favorites were definitely the soft creamy cheeses, Camembert, Brie, mild and delicious, followed by the pungent Bleu’s, Stilton, and even the stinkiest of the stinkies, Limburger (on rye with a big slab of sweet onion)... yum! Looking back, I see my gradual descent and “crossing the line”. Even when I couldn’t afford the imported cheeses, my purchases of the generic orange domestic stuff increased. It was no longer about the taste, it was all about getting my fix! Many evenings, in severe withdrawl, I found myself reverting to the brown bag, “Wild Irish Rose” of cheese; pasteurized, processed, CHEESE FOOD!

Truly, I knew I was in serious trouble years ago but continued to deny. My daughter and I, joined the Catholic Church together and decided to make a sacrificial Lenten committment that year and give up something dear to our hearts. Her love, at that time, was shopping. She gave up shopping. Mine, of course, was cheese. A few days before Easter, she came to me and begged me to buy a dress she had seen on sale. She would then pay me back, post Lent. I looked at her, disaaprovingly and said, “Honey, that’s dishonest. You can’t bargain like that with God.” Fast forward to the next day. I am in the kitchen, mircrowave dinging, pulling out a small plate. My precious girl says to me, “Mom, what are you doing? What do you have there?” Innocently, my response, “Cheese.” Puzzled, she says, “I thought you gave up cheese for Lent?” Easily rationalizing, I flippantly replied, “ Oh, well, I gave up cold cheese. This is melted cheese.” Hmmmmm..... can’t bargain like that with God.

Still, I carried on my affair with my fabulous, fatty lover. About five years ago, enjoying a jalepeno poppers lunch, I received a phone call from my doctor. My cholesterol was at a staggering 302/202. He wanted me to immediately pick up a prescription for Lipitor, with the suggestion I watch the fat in my diet as well. Instead, I stepped up my exercise routine to twice a day, seven days a week! Surely, my cholesterol would improve between the drugs and the lunatic in tennis shoes. I hoped. Sadly, there was no way I could acknowleged the role cheese played in those dangerous markers of clogged arteries. I was quickly approaching a life on the streets, hanging out near the local deli, selling myself for a few slices of swiss.

In the final weeks of my decline, I swore off cheese only to circle around into my favorite “Cheese Haus” in Plain City, Ohio. I had promised myself, my daughter, and friends, I wasn’t going to stop. Not this time. Worst of all, when I brought what remained home, after gorging myself, while driving, I hid it. I hid it in the back of the refrigerator behind the Greek yogurt and egg beaters. When my daughter stopped and detected a green fleck between my teeth (remenants of the pepper cheese she had almost caught me snarfing down) I lied. I told her it was a piece of spinach! Shame was becoming a regular state of mind. I was giving seedy new meaning to the term "cheese head".

The other night when appetizing with friends after a fun night at the theatre, I could see it all so clearly. Of all the selections on the menu, I picked mozzarella sticks. I was powerless over my cheese and my life had become unmanageable. Turning my will and life over to the care of Lipitor, exercise and feeble attempts at controlling my own consumption had failed. I was justifying, bargaining, experiencing health issues, hiding, lying and I knew my cholesterol was unmanageable. So, I have admitted, come to believe, and made a decision to turn it over to something larger. With a small caveat. Please, Higher Power... before my next life, when I get my rest break in heaven, may I eat cheese to my heart’s content? The real deal, beautifully aged, made from the milk of every animal known to man. No more velvetta, american slices, or fat free rubber substitute. Nonetheless, in the meantime, if any of you detect the pungent odor of a great Bleu on my breath, for God’s sake, drag me to a meeting!

Just goes to show ya---- it’s always somethin’- Roseanna Dana (SNL)