2. Cheese is fucking awesome.
Crafted from the sacred milk of cows, goats, sheep, and sometimes human boobies, cheese is god’s gift to your tastebuds. You can add cheese to any dish and it will be immediately improved. My favorite cuisines are all heavily cheese-infused: Mexican, Italian, Southern comfort food. I don’t typically have a ton of food in my fridge, but there is always a block of cheddar cheese. ALWAYS.
4. In conclusion, life without cheese is not worth living. Or at least that’s what I thought until I saw this article:
Whhhhaaaaat? Cheese is like COCAINE? No. It couldn’t be. But as I clicked around the interwebs, again and again, hastily written articles cited this study and claimed that cheese was as addictive as drugs.
6. Wait, could I be addicted to cheese?
Uh no — not according to the scientist who actually did the research behind all these articles. Ashley Gearhardt of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor told Science News, “I was horrified by the misstatements and the oversimplifications … and the statements about how it’s an excuse to overeat.”
Gearhardt went on to say some other things, including how liking a certain food is not even in the same ballpark as drug addiction, but it was too late. I wasn’t listening to her “facts.” I had already been sucked into the media’s oversimplification culture; my paranoia was growing by the minute. I looked back on my previous week’s meals, trying to find one that didn’t include cheese. The task proved fruitless and cheeseful.
That’s when I began researching the warning signs of addiction. They were all there.
8. Sign 1: Experimentation
Hey, what if we added cheese to cheese? What if we deep-fried cheese and then dipped it in melted cheese? If you’ve ever had thoughts like these, know that you are not alone. I have them too. Take this cheese apple for instance. Some people might call this experimentation “disgusting,” but I think this culinary delight could appear on Guy Fieri’s next menu, smack between Guy-talian’s Nachos and the Dragon Chili Cheese Fries.
9. Sign 2: Regular Use
Did you know some people do not eat cheese every day, for every meal? It’s unbelievable, but it’s also true. So if you are someone who just screamed, “No, what?!? HOW??” I understand, because I too am a daily user of cheese.
10. Sign 3: Risky Behavior
I have been known to drop a piece of cheese on the floor and eat it anyway, or steal a slice of pizza out of a stranger’s takeout box. There can be no doubt this is “risky behavior” with “addictive tendencies.” I realized all at once that those articles — however unscientific — were right: Cheese was my drug, and I was addicted. It was at that moment that I said, “No more.” No more would I allow cheese to rule my life. I had to quit cheese cold turkey.
Cheese and turkey: Wow, now that’s a delicious combo.
*slaps self in face*
Come on, Sarah, focus. This is going to be harder than I thought.
11. I needed help quitting, so I turned to the only doctor I could trust: Dr. Phil.
With the help of the good doctor, I started on my path to recovery and took my first of seven steps for breaking addiction.
12. Step 1: Acknowledge the purpose.
My purpose was to quit cheese. Because even if that research didn’t find that cheese = cocaine, my day-to-day life and excessive dairy consumption beg to differ.
This was a super easy step.
13. Step 2: Think rational thoughts instead of denial.
Having already observed that the signs of cheese addiction applied to me, I was no longer swimming in denial. I was climbing out of it, reaching out for a lifesaver. But nobody was offering me a lifesaver. Instead, everyone around me feasted on cheese, completely ignoring my plight. “Come back in and swim! That water’s warm!” the animated cheese called to me before being chomped to bits.
14. Step 3: Use alternative coping skills.
Literally everything I like has cheese. On the second day, I wanted to grab a quick bite to eat after work, before a show. I couldn’t grab a slice of pizza, or a bagel, or a burrito at Chipotle: All of those, at least for me, necessitated cheese. I wandered the streets of Chelsea, searching for food. That’s when I remembered that I love sushi. With sushi, you can make up for the lack of cheese by drowning it in soy sauce. So, for the next two weeks, sushi became my go-to meal, and needless to say, I got very tired of eating sushi. Especially cheap sushi. Cheap pizza is acceptable; cheap sushi involves raw fish, and thus challenges your stomach on every day of consumption.
For those of you thinking, “Hey Sarah, ever heard of cooking?” Yes, I have. But knowing what it is does not mean I am good at doing it. When I googled “easy microwave meals,” I could find nothing worth trying sans cheese. In that moment, I considered the plight of the lactose intolerant and wept. What do they put in their macaroni and cheese? What gives life to their manicotti?
16. I researched cheese substitutes and purchased some vegan cheese:
This was a highly unpleasant experience. It tasted nothing like cheese, or any food I had ever had before, for that matter. It tasted like bitter nothingness.
17. Step 4: Identify your danger zones.
Obviously, I had to avoid my favorite pizza places and cheese shops. Unfortunately, I work right around the corner from both Beecher’s and Bedford Cheese Stop, and had to remind myself to steer clear of them on my walk to work, crossing the street to avoid any contact or seductive smells.
New York, or the Big Cheese Apple, is known the world over for its strong love of dairy. As a self-diagnosed cheese addict, I had to stay strong. If I wasn’t careful, I would be pulled back into my old habits, trading illegal cheese for cold hard cash in a dark alley.
18. Step 5: Make lifestyle changes.
Gone were my days of heating up cheese with a lighter next to a caution sign. My lifestyle now consisted of spending an extra 20-30 minutes trying to figure out what to eat.
19. Step 6: Be accountable and have a support system.
In the beginning, I made some mistakes. I am admitting that; I must remain accountable. I passed up a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos in favor of Cool Ranch, believing I was getting my unhealthy snack on in cheeseless way. Midway through the bag, I made a horrifying discovery:
20. That’s right. CHEESE IS EVERYWHERE.
I was two weeks deep into my cheeseless life when an event happened that completely undid all of my work. This event was a cheese-driven, quintessentially American phenomenon that I could not possibly ignore. It was the Super Bowl.
Literally everyone brought a dish with cheese: nachos, buffalo chicken dip, wings with blue cheese: it was a cheese-lover’s dream. Standing there, I came face to face with my addiction.
21. Did I still want to eat cheese? Yes. Could I abstain from eating this cheese? Yes. But did I want to abstain? Hell no.
I wanted that cheese and I wanted all of it. I just like it so goddamn much. That’s when the words of Amy Gerhardt, the research lead of the addiction study, came back to me:
“Liking is not the same as addiction. We like lots of things. I like hip-hop music and sunshine and my wiener dog, but I’m not addicted to her. I eat cheese every day. That’s doesn’t mean you’re addicted or it has addictive potential.”
Maybe… I wasn’t addicted? Maybe… I just really like cheese? Of course, my previous consumption of cheese was excessive, and likely unhealthy, but that was not cheese’s fault. That was my fault.
Facing my toughest challenge yet, I moved on to the final step.
23. Step 7: Reward yourself.
As I inhaled that three-layer cheese dip and watched the Broncos and Panthers throw around that brown prolate spheroid, I had another realization: My abstinence from cheese only served as fuel for my cheese binge. I was like a horny teenager in a Texas sex ed class. It was unreasonable to expect myself to fully give up cheese. Sure, I could make it through two weeks of cheeselessness. But if I could eat cheese regularly, and safely, I should always choose that path.
24. I’m not addicted to cheese, at least not in the sense that people are addicted to drugs.
According to Time, there is little to no evidence that casein in cheese affects us like drugs — a claim that was spread from a biased vegan source. Much love to my vegan friends, you will probably outlive me, but don’t ever trick me into eating your cheese substitute again.
I’m addicted to cheese in the sense that I’m enthusiastically devoted, so much so that I may incur some unhealthy effects. The easiest solution for me is to make cheese the supporting player of my meal, not the quarterback. I look forward to a new cheesy chapter of my life, in which I savor instead of scarfing. I graze rather than guzzle. If cheese really is that special, I should move slowly and enjoy our time together. More so than anything, I feel more secure about being my cheese-loving self. After all, there’s a reason people “say cheese” when they’re taking photos: Cheese is so damn good, it makes everyone smile.