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     Volume 5 Issue 98 | June 9, 2006 |

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Straight Talk

Confessions of a Cheese-hater

Nadia Kabir Barb

Every time I mention that I do not eat cheese, people either look at me in absolute amazement or utter disbelief. I might as well have been telling them I keep a pet Tyrannosaurus Rex in my back yard or that I am a sumo wrestler by profession! "How can you not like cheese?" usually means "what on earth is wrong with you, woman?" and "Do you have an allergy to cheese?" translates to "there is definitely something wrong with you!" But I am now immune to the raised eyebrows and have stock responses to the now very familiar questions thrown at me. "No, I am not lactose intolerant." What really amuses me is that even to this date my family and friends, who have known me forever, still cannot resist asking me every now and then whether I would like to try some cheesy snack or dish as if I might suddenly have returned to the world of sane cheese eating people! But there have also been numerous occasions where my 'cheese less' existence has been somewhat of a hindrance to me.

Let me take you back in time and give you a few examples. Before I got married, my husband wanted me to meet his younger sister and as you can imagine I was very keen to make a good impression. It was quite nerve racking for me during the one and a half hour drive to Oxford and it was almost a relief when we finally arrived. I had been told that there were going to be a few of my sister-in-law's university friends present as well and I thought it might actually be a blessing to have the focus of attention away from me. I am sure she was just as keen to see whether I was sister-in-law material or not.

The introduction seemed to go well and we chatted for a while until everyone expressed the need for sustenance. Have you ever noticed how students of any age are perennially hungry? We were no different, so my sister-in-law wandered off into the kitchen and to my horror when she reappeared; she announced that she had set up a cheese fondue in the other room! At the time fondues were all the rage and people were forever having, cheese, meat or even chocolate fondues. A cheese fondue is where you have a pot of melted cheese and everyone gets to dip either pieces of bread or vegetables in the cheese and eat it. Not exactly my kind of thing. For a while I hoped that no one would observe that I was not exactly participating in the cheese fest but as luck would have it my sister-in-law noticed and when I finally admitted that I actually did not eat any cheese I had eight pairs of eyes looking at me with incredulity! Not only that, my sister-in-law was mortified as this was not exactly how she had hoped her little get together would have turned out. In the end I found myself munching on a plate of chocolate biscuits and one thing that I was confident about is that I had definitely made an impression on my "nanad" but probably not the type I had hoped for!

What I want to know is how is it that people find it strange that I do not eat cheese but find it totally acceptable that some of the cheeses that are thought to be so delectable have an odour like smelly socks and given a chance would get up and walk off by themself with the amount of bacteria in them! I am sure I am going to have all the cheese eating community coming down on me pretty hard but you have to admit that some of the cheeses do smell unbelievabley awful. Soon after I got married, my husband, who is very partial to cheese, brought a soup home, which consisted of broccoli and stilton. When we sat down to dinner, I was almost knocked out by the overpowering smell of the soup. Ultimately I sat upstairs in our bedroom while my husband sat in the kitchen which happened to be two floors down, and finished our respective meals! Needless to say that subsequently my husband stopped bringing back any of the cheeses that you could smell a mile away.

It is funny how parenthood changes people and their behaviour. No I still do not eat cheese but I do go out to the shops and buy different types of cheese for my children because they all love it. It is also not unusual to find me making a pasta bake (with cheese) cheese sandwiches or cheese on toast for them which would have been unthinkable for me a few years ago. I even order a pizza for myself when we go out, albeit a cheese-less pizza. Yes, yes I can almost hear some of you groaning at the thought of pizza without cheese but trust me it is really not so bad!

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