I didn’t realize that I was lactose intolerant till my mid-twenties. I knew I didn’t like milk all my life, but thought is was a preference. I even remember as a young child getting nauseous trying to drink a full glass of milk. My parents used to force it on me and I would find all kinds of excuses to not finish it. I even snuck it out to the garden and watered our rose bushes with it or poured it down the sink, when mom turned her back. I got in trouble for years. Milk was expensive in India and it was not okay to be wasteful. My mom even blamed my height on my not drinking enough milk–I stand 5′ and 3/4 of inch high. While as a teen it bothered me and I truly thought that milk would change my genetic make up and help me grow into a slim and trim 5’5″ girl, the truth was I got my mom’s genes–she stands at 4’11”.
It wasn’t until I met a dancer friend of mine who had one day eaten too much ice cream and rolled around dance rehearsal in pain, that I finally got a name for my condition. My intolerance was not as severe which is why I kept drinking/eating dairy. I would get a little bloated, but I assumed this was normal that your belly stuck out after you ate.
The truth is until 3 years ago, I lived in a lot of gaseous pain. Yes, it’s true. I ate without considering the dairy content and walked out of restaurants like a pregnant Hunchback of Notre Dame, rubbing my belly as it rumbled along. Soon all my acquaintances and friends alike knew me to have this issue. On a good day when I have ignored my body, I could look up to 3 months pregnant. My husband even named my bloated belly.
Three years ago, I made an executive decision to cut all dairy out of my life except on occasions that I determined were worth it. Since then, it is like I lost 5 pounds just in my belly weight. I feel better after I eat and no more rolling around in pain. When I do choose to eat, I live through a bit of pain knowing that the meal was worth it.
Last night N and I ate dinner at Vermont’s Duino!, Duende. Duino is the name a series of Elegies that Rainer Maria Rilke wrote about coming to terms with the human existence; he discusses angels and mysticism separate from Christianity. Duende is the it factor or passion in a person. Imagine a mystical dark pub with candles, real candles, on each table, book shelves against the walls with real books from The Count of Monte Cristo to Agatha Christie Mysteries.
We walked in and I glanced back at my partner who grinned and nodded back. Michael Jackson’s Thriller Album was playing in the back ground. A waitress dressed like a flamenco dancer swooped in front of us and said, “follow me this way”. We sat next to the bar and more importantly right up against two book shelves that held aged books. I’m unsure how or why books, especially ones from times past, immediately set a tone of mystery and nostalgia. I chair danced to my favorite album and chose my food carefully, asking each time–is it worth it?
We ordered Poutine, Pupusas with pork, and a Duende Salad with Vermont Goat Cheese. The poutine came out and we dove in not once considering that it was doused with melted cheese. It had a mix of sweet potatoes and white potatoes with herb gravy, homemade hot sauce, Vermont bacon–in Bourdain’s words: stoner food. The flavors, a mix of tangy, sweet. The textures, a mix of soft fries and crunchy bacon. Both met with the desperation and urgency of lovers reuniting after a bad fight on my tongue. With each bite, I felt my stomach rumble warning me to stop. With each bite, I looked down at my belly and comforted it with my hand. At the end of the meal, I sat in my chair leaning over to my left to allow my belly the room it needed to work through the dairy I forced into it.
It got me thinking, about the sacrifices I make for food; the human connection to food in general. Is food worth it? I mean I watch many girls who have complete discipline and eat the Paleo way or gluten-free or are vegan to stay healthy. Is it worth it to make those sacrifices? Should I live this way to be healthy in my thirties? Need I be more disciplined? What is about human nature that needs to be fed by the feeling of superiority?
While I eat organic and local, while I eat mostly gluten-free and lots of veggies, I still indulge in a good burger when I crave it or a grass-fed steak. What I’ve learned about myself is anything in extremes doesn’t work in my life. This is due to what happens when I break–I remember once when I lived in New York I decided that I was eating too much sugar and that was going to take a break from it for a month. When I made this decision, all I could think about was sugar. It was quite a challenge and when I broke, I ate a large amount of Oreos without even realizing it.
If I had to be true to myself, I am able to live my life better when I attempt to pace myself and work towards an imperfect balance; I eat what I want as long as it’s worth and not every day. Everything in moderation is the theme of my life. Life is about living right? So why live in deprivation? I did enough of that in my twenties thinking that I was fat. Today, I’m going to eat my poutine and roll around in a bit of pain without guilt or self-deprecation.
I’m gonna eat a little cheese while in Vermont!