Food Patterns: Dairy-Free

First things first, I must admit that I’m not doing this challenge out of my own volition! As a matter of fact, I was forced to do this challenge by my teammates who thought it would be a ‘nice idea’ to try out different food patterns and recount our experience. I strongly disagree! I think this is a stupid idea and a huge waste of time that will only serve to deprive me of my love for dairy products; cheese, butter, yogurt and especially milk. But, since I like to think of myself as a good team player, I decided to go along with this huge mistake.

I really, really love dairy! In my fridge, I have around 7 cartons of milk and about 20 tubs of yogurt, and that’s not counting cheese and butter. I can already sense people frowning behind their monitor at the weirdly excessive amount of dairy in my fridge. I’m not obsessed with dairy, I just have all that milk in case the Pope decides to swing by desiring a dairy drink.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s a brief rundown of what this challenge entails: the task will start with the easiest challenge and will continue to eliminate more items at each stage; from dairy-free to a vegetarian diet, and lastly, a vegan diet. I obviously chose the easiest stage, which in hindsight wasn’t such a good idea considering my love for milk. So, with as much enthusiasm as Daenerys Targaryen had, the first time she had to consummate her marriage with Khal Drogo, here’s a quick recap of my miserable week…


I can’t say that my first day was particularly difficult. I did have to keep myself from giving into temptation and drinking milk, but overall I managed to subdue these urges and successfully complete the first day of my challenge. With that being said, I feel that this is just the calm before the storm. The reason why today wasn’t particularly hard was because I spent the entire day at University, so I wasn’t strongly tempted by the contents of my fridge. Also, today I decided to pop to the supermarket because I read that people who try to cut dairy from their diet, attempt to find alternatives to dairy products. However, I realised that some places sell their dairy-free alternatives at an extortionate rate. For some reason, my supermarket deemed it appropriate that dairy-free cheese should cost as much as an all-inclusive 7-night holiday in Spain, for a family of 48.


Today I decided not to eat from University and instead make the same sandwich I normally prepare for school, minus the dairy. This meant that I couldn’t include butter or cheese. My finished product was a sandwich that only consisted of salami, ham, and hatred. Even though I prepared the sandwich in the morning, I didn’t dare eat it until around midday, not because I wasn’t hungry, but because I dreaded the moment I would have to bring that sandwich anywhere close to my face. As you can imagine, the sandwich tasted horrible. It was not only disgusting, but it was probably the saddest thing that ever happened in Europe. I always thought that cheese served only to add calories and make my sandwich smell bad, however, I was quickly disabused of that notion when I bit into my sandwich. You never really appreciate cheese until you eat a sandwich without cheese and realise that it tastes like rope.


So it’s Saturday morning and I’m admittedly a tiny bit hungover from yesterday night. Normally when I wake up like this, I go to the fridge and drink an entire carton of milk in a couple of gulps. But since I couldn’t drink milk, I had to open my fridge, take a water bottle out, and run away from the fridge as if I was fleeing ISIS – I didn’t want to flirt with failure. When I’m hungover I normally eat a tub of yogurt for breakfast (because it is the only thing that is somewhat edible in that state), but today I opted to make a salad instead. I was pleasantly surprised that the salad is actually quite nice when the alcohol is still gnawing away at your vital organs. It’s cold and fresh enough to be enjoyable, and it is something that I think I will be adding to my diet on such dreadful mornings.


What I came to realise is that most of the food that my family prepares includes milk or butter in some form or another. Therefore, had to prepare a different plate from my family’s on multiple occasions. The meals I came up with could simply be described as a perfect storm of sadness. I’m not blaming the products here, I take full responsibility for my kitchen failures and for overestimating my abilities as a chef. You won’t find any of my recipes here (for obvious reasons), but what I can admit, however, is that my meals tasted so bad that they should probably be against the Geneva Convention.


At this point, the challenge is getting fairly tough. I wish that I could fake the funk and say that this was an enlightening experience that made me realise that dairy isn’t such an important part of my diet. But that would be far from the truth, and not at all in-line with my experience thus far. Also, the fact that I have the willpower of a squirrel didn’t really help with the proceedings. I have to prepare food that doesn’t contain milk or butter which would be fine if I had any idea of how to handle myself in front of the stove, (I don’t). I’m not trying to say that my meals were bland and boring, but you are warned not to operate any heavy machinery after you eat one of my dishes.


It’s day six and I’m starting to feel like Kristen Stewart in the movie “The Panic Room” (except with some degree of facial emotion and considerably less lip biting). I’m currently undergoing stress levels known only by fighter pilots, and it has really made me realise how difficult it must be for people who are lactose intolerant. I started reading about this and apparently, some people become lactose intolerant in their early or mid-20s. Upon reading this I realised that this might be in my worst three nightmares of all time, after having my head chopped off and being set on fire. Also, milk is rich in protein and calcium, which I had to replace with some other products in order to maintain my shit figure.


Finally, the last day of my challenge! I must confess that I have a new-found respect for anyone who doesn’t consume dairy. Furthermore, if you are a person who doesn’t like cheese, that’s fine, but I think you shouldn’t be allowed to vote anymore because you have some pretty awful decision-making skills. The challenge was very hard but I didn’t really feel weak or anything, I just really missed dairy. Also, I came to realise that there are a number of dairy-free alternatives, some that I will try and some that I wouldn’t try in a million years, like vegan cheese. I have never tasted vegan cheese, but I think whoever invented it should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.


The only thing that could have made my week worse was if I was forced to drink a bucket of bleach. The challenge was incredibly hard and what made it harder was that I hadn’t really prepared for it in any way, not even by trying to replace some dairy products with healthier options. Funnily enough, I remember that when I broke my arm I didn’t complain nearly as much as I did during the past week. I’m not saying that a broken arm is worse than going dairy-free for a week, I’m just saying that if an evil genie forced me to choose between the two, I can safely say that I would have your autograph on my cast in a couple of weeks time.

– Neil


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