Cheese. And Then A Different Kind of Cheese.

June 18, 2004

(If this is your first visit, it might make sense to start with the, uh, Cow-Losing Manifesto, which can be found here.)

I usually hate being all meta, blogging about the blog and so forth, and I promise it will almost never happen, but there are things that have to be said.

We’ve been live for . . . two and a half days, basically. And they have been, no fooling, some of the greatest and most gratifying days a girl ever had.

Three remarkable things happened on my first day in the new digs over here, just in terms of getting underway. First, I got linked by Pam. Second, I got linked (Site of the Week! Booty dance!) by Put Down The Donut. (If you read F&D, Joelle from PDTD is the same Joelle from BlogMoxie who did my site redesign over there — see how it all fits together?) Third, I got linked by Lose the Buddha. Between those three links and a bunch of others, a mondo quantity of traffic was driven here that has much more to do with other people’s work than with mine, and which is by far the most enjoyable and most motivating way to start a new project. So I thank all the excellent folks who threw me a link or have added me to their blogrolls. On the web, probably more directly than anywhere else, you genuinely stand on the shoulders of other people’s work and reputations, and it’s kind of like a little vote of confidence when people put their support behind you, so . . . you rule.

And to those of you who left comments . . . wow. Just, really, thank you so much. Not just for all your kind words, although they are overwhelmingly kind, but for your thoughtful and thought-provoking additions to the discussion. I am all kinds of humbled and moved and floored by your tales, and I seriously hope you’re going to keep sharing them.

On the administrative side: Yes, I’m working on what kinds of notice there will be of updates. I’ll keep you posted — there’ll be a way to keep track.

I also realized I never really told you who I am, figuring you’d all be coming from places where you already knew me, which hasn’t turned out to be the case, quite. So for what it’s worth, I’m Linda, and I also write here and here, and I’m partly an attorney and partly a freelance writer.

And now that we’ve discussed inspiration and given thanks, we will move on to the matter of cheese.

I was asked in the comments:

If you don’t mind indulging reader questions, tell me the truth: does nonfat cheese taste like ass?

(Reader questions are most excellent, and if I’m going to talk anyway, you might as well lay ’em on me. You can email ’em, too.)

Yes, nonfat cheese tastes like ass. More specifically, nonfat cheese has all the flavor of wax, but with the enticing texture of partially melted Saran Wrap. I realize, of course, that the transitive property would tend to suggest that I am kind of accusing your ass of tasting like wax, which I am so not. I’m sure your ass tastes much better than wax. (That sentence is in there just to generate weird Google hits, by the way, not that I won’t get them from having “cow” in the title.) And both your ass and wax actually taste better than nonfat cheese.

Admittedly, I cannot claim to have tried every sort of nonfat cheese there is. It’s entirely possible that out there somewhere, there is a nonfat cheese that might remind you of cheese, particularly if you were drunk. If there is, I humbly bow down to its genius. But the nonfat cheeses I have actually tried have been unfailingly vile. Not just unsatisfying — I’m saying vile. I’m saying the fact that you can still get nonfat cheese strikes me as a failure of capitalism.

In my opinion, the only people who should use nonfat cheese are people who (1) want to make something that looks like it contains cheese or is topped with cheese; (2) want to feel confident that it has no fat in it; and (3) intend to throw whatever it is away rather than actually eating it or, needless to say, serving it to anyone they like.

Oddly, nonfat cheese specifically lacks every quality that actual cheese contains. It does not (1) taste like cheese; (2) have fat; (3) melt; (4) combine with anything else; or (5) form strings that stretch across your chin. There’s an argument to be made that objectively, it is not cheese, with the only opposing arguments being that it (1) comes shredded in a bag; and (2) often has a distinctly unnatural orange hue. You’ll notice that those two qualities are not associated with your high-end products from Italy to begin with. Equally oddly, the closest thing I’ve ever seen to nonfat cheese that approximates what it’s supposed to be is nonfat wrapped slices — you know, the Singles you put on a grilled cheese sandwich. And they are successful, I suspect, because what they are mimicking is sort of not cheese, either.

Want to see something really funny? Look at this. It’s a recipe for pizza that uses shredded cheese without any fat in it, meaning that it will come out, at best, like it’s topped with tangled shoelaces. And then it says, “The Recommended Wine Is: Beaujolais.” Because you wouldn’t want to serve the wrong wine with your nonfat cheese. Chablis does not go with shoelaces, you silly thing! People might think you are not chic. Mon dieu! I’m telling you right now, that Beaujolais is not helping the “Mexican Pizza” unless you drink the entire bottle by yourself.

Note that this is not to speak ill of reduced-fat cheese, which I use constantly. I am particularly partial to the Kraft 2% bags. I realize they do not give you a restaurant-quality cheese experience or anything, but . . . I mean, at least they remind me of cheese.

But in many cases, I’d rather just have reduced-volume cheese. There’s real Parmesan in my fridge, as there is at all times, but I never do anything but grate it — it’s not like I eat a block of Parmesan for dinner. (Though that sounds kind of good.) There’s also, in that fridge, some kind of creamy wedge of genuine something that’s very good and very soft that I bought at Whole Foods and haven’t gotten around to eating with an apple yet, although I probably will. And because it’s so good, I will nibble at it and feel divine and wallow in my sparingly decadent glory.

If I may draw an analogy, I will compare the cheese issue to the syrup issue. The cat is basically out of the bag at this point that there’s nothing wrong with eating pancakes or waffles for breakfast, especially if they’re whole-grain and you eat them individually, rather than by the stack. But the syrup, in large amounts, can really put a dent in your day. For some people, the sugar-free syrups or the “lite” syrups are the answer, because they like their pancakes goopy, and a trickle of real maple syrup is going to ruin breakfast. I, on the other hand, prefer the trickle of regular, as every “lite” pancake syrup I have ever tried has been genuinely nasty. Don’t even get me started on the ones with artificial butter flavoring. (Shudder.)

I’m not making myself out to be a picky connoisseur of some kind — I’m not proud with things where I don’t care that much. I eat Boca burgers and the apparent oxymoron known as “meatless sausage,” and I even have been known to snack on fat-free hot dogs. Many of you would sooner die. Give you Jimmy Dean, or give you death. And I understand.

And that’s how I feel about nonfat cheese. It has nothing to offer me. I would, quite frankly, rather just lick my own arm. Because my own arm tastes much better than wax.

**SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT**

Before you go, it just occurred to me that there are a bunch of people here who got here from WW boards or PDTD, and who don’t move in the same DHAK circles that I so often do, and who might therefore never have seen Operation Find Don. If you haven’t, go read it. He’s just gotta be out there. Since Pam just found her old friend Kenya, I have new hope that one day, Sars will find Don. Thanks!

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32 Responses to “Cheese. And Then A Different Kind of Cheese.”

  1. J.W. Says:

    I am glad to know that your arms aren’t waxy. And I completely agree with your thoughts on FF cheese… and I too, can tolerate the 2% stuff. In fact, the 2% Cracker Barrel cheddar is good enough to be dangerous at times.

    I’ve also been known to buy real cheese and eat it sparingly, but that can only be done at times when my strength is at full force. If I’ve been doing battle with chocolate, for example, and I’m already weakened from the victory… that’s not the time to buy real cheese. Especially if it’s gorgonzola imported from Italy. *sigh*

    J.W.

  2. ladymisstree Says:

    I’m all about reduced-volume foods. I’d rather poke my eye out with a chopstick than eat most ‘fat free’ food. It’s just nasty. Give me a little bit of something GOOD than a whole lot of something hideous. Life is simply too short!

  3. kdeweb Says:

    Amen! I would rather have a small amount of real cheese that tastes good and doesn’t crack a tooth when you bite into it.

  4. Lee Says:

    Thank you for this post. (And nice to meet you, by the way. LOVE this site and your writing. Most excellent.) Nonfat cheese is horrid. I’m a slave to the 2% cheese on a daily basis and I keep the full fat feta (which is one of the Gods of Cheese, as far as I’m concerned) stocked in the fridge at all times. Because it’s amazing at how much flavor a pinch of full flavored cheese gives dishes and I’m not ready to sacrifice that in the name of “diet” for anyone. It’s been said before but I’ll say it again … life is simply too short!

  5. Annie1600 Says:

    Well, no wonder I’ve been having trouble pulling my rope. I went to the other end and found not one.. but three people tugging away.
    One’s this spoiled brat kid who never learned to take no for an answer, one’s a defiant teenager who says “Fuck the world, I don’t need to take anyone’s advice,” and the other’s this pathetic woman for whom weight gain is a self-fulfilling prophecy because she always “feels” fat even when she’s a size 10. Sigh. Just when I think I’ve kicked one’s ass, another steps up to the rope. I need to become the Jackie Chan of weight loss and kick all three butts at once I guess.

    Thanks for the wonderful, encouraging site, Linda. BTW, I think the writing on this site and TWP is just awesome! Keep it coming!

  6. Krysta Says:

    I discovered this site(via a WW board), and read it, while munching on a couple fat-free hotdogs topped with Velveeta Light. I do own some real cheese, but sometimes I just want this stuff.

    I enjoyed your writing very much. Thanks for sharing it.

  7. Lipstickface Says:

    Two post reader/first time poster:
    *Love* you writing!
    Im not saying my diet is right. Different diets work for different peeps. I finally found what worked for me after one entire year of WeightWatchers and paying $9 a week to watch the scale bounce up and down.
    After one year I lost nothing. Then discovred Atkins.

    I eat as much cheese as I can fit in my mouth. REAL CHEESE!!!!!!!!!!!

    And Ive lost 50lbs.

    But I admit Ive been on a bastard of a plateau for 4 months now and work my ass off at the gym daily….maybe all the cheese I can get my mouth around isnt the best idea….


  8. Funny that whole non-fat thing that America seems to have perfected. Over here in Europe (Sweden, in my case) there are of course plenty of low-fat things, such as cheese, but I haven’t seen any non-fat stuff at all. Manufacturers stretch as far as “virtually fat free” when it comes to yoghurt and that stuff tastes really good. Cheese? I use 10% fat or 17% fat cheese but I’m considering ditching that in favour of “regular” stuff because it has more taste and then you (ideally) use less. And it melts so much better on your sandwich/homemade pizza. 🙂 But I ramble.. I love your writing, it’s lovely to read and funny too. I will certainly return!

  9. Chloe Says:

    I found your site through pamie, and then went back to read “the Manifesto”, and may I just say… Wow. I’m very impressed, can’t wait to read more, and just flat out think that you are awesome. That said, I feel like a total doofus now, as I always do when I proclaim my love for excellent writing online. It makes me feel like a pale, flabby geek who spends hours a day online, on Star Trek message boards and such. (Well actually… I am pale.)
    Anyhoo. Fat free cheese does suck, but I do like the low fat considerably more. I sometimes can’t quite tell the difference.

  10. sara Says:

    I remember seeing one of those hip tips on Queer Eye where Ted said that you should only use non-fat cheese if you have specific dietary restrictions that prevent you from enjoying full fat cheese. I completely and totally agree. When I first started WW, I tried non-fat cheese. Only once. My husband refused to eat my cooking if I continued to use it. Actually, I probably would have refused to eat my cooking if I had continued to use it. So I use the 2% stuff and it’s pretty good. But I have to be careful because I love cheese. It’s one of my very favorite foods in the whole wide world and I have no sense of restraint when faced with a platter of cheese and crackers at a party.

    Anyway. Thanks again for starting this blog. It is truly wonderful.

  11. amber Says:

    Non-fat cheese is evil. 🙂 I’m like you (and others that have commented), I’d rather just eat reduced portions than eat chalk (or wax).
    I really love your writing style, and I’ll definitely be checking in regularly to read your advice and comments. Wonderful site!

  12. Kim Says:

    I “accidentally” (yeah, right) ate a slice of my hubby’s REAL cheese this weekend. It was sooooo good. I tend to make those “mistakes” on days my flex points restart. Hmm.

  13. emily Says:

    Oh, I am so proud that my question inspired you! And I am extremely grateful to know that nonfat cheese does taste like ass. Or wax. Or chalk. Or, you know, not cheese. On the other hand, I am equally grateful to know that lowfat cheese is acceptable! I’d been avoiding it thinking that lowfat was just as likely to taste like poo as nonfat.

  14. Amanda Page Says:

    I’ve been through this process with cream cheese. Plain Philadelphia has more calories than I want to spend. Non-fat cream cheese tastes exactly how I’d imagine laminated ass would taste.

    Neufchatel is a good compromise, half the fat of the full version, but with the taste, mouthfeel and melting properties of the good stuff.

  15. Wing Chun Says:

    I actually don’t think fat-free Kraft singles are that bad, but then I only ever eat them melted on beef patties on the barbecue, and then drenched with ketchup, two kinds of mustard, Miracle Whip, relish, and pickles. So take that judgment with a grain of salt.

    The real test, of course, would be how they are in a grilled-cheese sandwich, but I don’t know how to make one of those without butter, so I’ll have to wait a while to try that one.

  16. raspberry Says:

    if you go to blogletand sign up, people can subscribe to your site and get automatic updates whenever you post 🙂

  17. Tracy Says:

    I’d just like to add my “amen” to the fat-free cheese manifesto. I made a mini pizza with it once, and it tasted like I’d taken a grater to my Barbie. (Not that she didn’t have it coming, the skinny bitch). Sargento reduced-fat Mexican blend shredded cheese, though, is a staple item in our house.

  18. Lane Says:

    I’m 15, and I was raised on low-fat cheddar, wheat bread, 1% milk, and Healthy Choice hot dogs. I don’t even like anything else, so I guess I’m lucky?

    I just thought this was a site that pamie happened to come across. I had no idea you were part of DHAK and everything- I’m a huge TWoP fan. What do you recap?

  19. Anne Says:

    Oh my goodness, I read through the manifesto (tearing up, by the way, at the whole pulling on the rope thing, cause damn you hit the nail on the head) and didn’t even realize you were “Miss Alli” of TWoP fame.

    Then I looked up and noticed the Frolic and Detour address. Duh.

    Thank you so much for doing this. I’m embarking on yet another seemingly endless weight lost quest. I hope this time I can do what you have done.

    Also, sitting in my refigerator right now is a package of soy cheese (my roommate’s, I swear) the only thing in the world that can possibly rival non-fat cheese for pure evilness.

  20. Joelle Says:

    Ok, I personally think that nonfat cheese tastes like assHOLE, as opposed to just ass, but hey, that’s me.

    As far as syrup goes, I think I’ve just beaten myself into submission. You know what I mean? Like when you switch from regular Coke to Dieto Coke or from like, heroin to just crack. You get used to it. I’m just sayin’.

  21. Joelle Says:

    Yeah, that would be DIET Coke and if I wasn’t trying to be so goddamn funny, I might proof once in a while.

  22. Coleen Says:

    Here’s my issue. I am now addicted to the Kraft Fat-Free singles. I went on them last year during the Giant Death Camp Weight Loss Program, and I sort of got hooked to the sharp, plasticky taste. Now I can’t eat regular cheese.

    Well no, I can TOTALLY eat regular cheese, but at 1500 calories a day, I’m afraid my regular block of extra sharp cheddar would wipe me out at one sitting. Why does cheese have to be so damn delicious?

  23. Tarn Says:

    You know what trumps non-fat cheese in the tastes-like-ass department? SOY cheese! Ugh. I like tofu and some other soy products, and I thought I was being both health-conscious and animal-friendly when I purchased this package of poo. But ew. No one should ever have to ingest this evil substance. It melts, like, the second you touch it. And you know that soy isn’t really a melty substance, so you wonder what’s happening in its little ass-tasting chemical make-up that’s making it melt. Is it dissolving? Dissipating? Absorbing into my skin? I can’t even think about it. Even my hard-core vegan friends admitted to me that they can’t handle it and have just committed themselves to a life without cheese. Horrors!

  24. Allie Says:

    My mom forced my dad on a low fat diet because his blood pressure was high (he’s actually not even heavy)… she made him a fat free grilled cheese sandwich for dinner. He took one bite, got up and walked away from the table. He then told my sister and I that my mother was trying to kill him. Hee! Seriously, my dad is the most easy going person in the world, so you know it had to taste like ass.

    And holy you’re “miss alli” from TWoP!! Your ‘Apprentice’ recaps are what used to get my through work! This is going to make me sound like a tool, but it wasn’t until like the last 3 recaps that I realized when Sars would put in a notation (ie: HATE!) that it was during editing. I seriously thought the two of you got together every Thursday and watched ‘The Apprentice’ all cozy on the couch with popcorn. And that Sars would just growl, “HATE” at the T.V. , so it made it into the recap. I was sad when I finally figured it out though.

  25. acatmaylook Says:

    Can you have real cheese, if you opt for the Beaujolais lite?

  26. Elsie Says:

    So here’s the thing. I’m a former artisan cheese buyer (Yes, I’m telling the truth. Yes, it was one of the greatest jobs ever. Yes, I travelled to Italy for the sole purpose of sampling cheeses and wines for a week. No, I have no advice for anyone who wants to do it for a living. And yes, I did gain about 20 pounds while I was doing it.). I love my cheese. I _need_ my cheese.

    If I had to choose between being able to eat as much NF cheese as I wanted for the rest of my life or never, ever having another bite of real cheese until the day I died, I’d be miserable complain all the freaking time… but I still wouldn’t cave. Because c’mon, people. It’s ass-cheese.

  27. Desire Says:

    A friend and ardent TWoP fan sent me this link, and… well, it’s all been said, but it can’t be said enough: your writing not only illuminates, not only cuts to the heart of a matter, but now also connects.

    Weirdly, I’m on week 12 of the journey back to a better weight, and hit my first micro-plateau. What an amazing find. My weight issue isn’t a life-long one, and I haven’t got as much to lose as some; nonetheless, the guy on the end of the rope is getting some shit-kicking.

    Anyway, this essay is SO absolutely right. I am an unembarrassed foodie. So the biggest issue in figuring out how to put 3500 fewer calories a week into my mouth is if it tastes like ass, I won’t be eating it, I’ll be hungry, and I’ll be eating something else with a pile more calories.

    But this no-fat cheese thing (and YES, it tastes like crapulent plastic) is completely the wrong approach, and it reminds me of this weird mock-meat crap. Some friends of mine are vegetarian, and we’ve on occasion eaten at Buddist veggie restaurants where they serve you tofu that’s been molded into various forms in a sad attempt to pretend it’s meat. Look, if you’re going to be a vegetarian, eat vegetables, eat tofu, and, sure, miss the meat — but don’t pretend that tofu is meat, because that way madness lies. Much more productive to find delicious vegetable dishes. (Oh, and — most of the mock-meat stuff also tastes like crap. Some of it is fine, but frankly, none of it is like meat.)

    BTW, if y’all like fabulous runny, smelly cheeses, Whole Foods carries the hands-down best low-fat Camembert I’ve ever had. 30g (about 2oz) is about 65 calories if I remember right, and smeared on a tart apple or a pear slice or melted over tomatoes on toast… it is really good. I’d have to check at home for the brand name. Obviously, if you like your cheese more sedate, this won’t be a help.

    Oh, and Elsie? I cannot imagine a better job. Heh.

  28. Desire Says:

    A friend and ardent TWoP fan sent me this link, and… well, it’s all been said, but it can’t be said enough: your writing not only illuminates, not only cuts to the heart of a matter, but now also connects.

    I’m on week 12 of the journey back to a better weight, and hit my first micro-plateau. What an amazing find this blog is. My weight issue isn’t a life-long one, and I haven’t got as much to lose as some; nonetheless, the guy on the end of the rope is getting some shit-kicking.

    Anyway, this essay is SO absolutely right. I am an unembarrassed foodie. So the biggest issue in figuring out how to put 3500 fewer calories a week into my mouth is if it tastes like ass, I won’t be eating it, I’ll be hungry, and I’ll be eating something else with a pile more calories.

    But this no-fat cheese thing (and YES, it tastes like crapulent plastic) is completely the wrong approach, and it reminds me of this weird mock-meat crap. Some friends of mine are vegetarian, and we’ve on occasion eaten at Buddist veggie restaurants where they serve you tofu that’s been molded into various forms in a sad attempt to pretend it’s meat. Look, if you’re going to be a vegetarian, eat vegetables, eat tofu, and, sure, miss the meat — but don’t pretend that tofu is meat, because that way madness lies. Much more productive to find delicious vegetable dishes. (Oh, and — most of the mock-meat stuff also tastes like crap. Some of it is fine, but frankly, none of it is like meat.)

    BTW, if y’all like fabulous runny, smelly cheeses, Whole Foods carries the hands-down best low-fat Camembert I’ve ever had. 30g (about 2oz) is about 65 calories if I remember right, and smeared on a tart apple or a pear slice or melted over tomatoes on toast… it is really good. I’d have to check at home for the brand name. Obviously, if you like your cheese more sedate, this won’t be a help.

    Oh, and Elsie? I cannot *imagine* a better job. Heh.

  29. mamacin Says:

    The way you feel about FF cheese is the way that I feel about FF mayonnaise. As far as I’m concerned if I want mayonnaise and have to eat FF to be successful, I’ll just spread some axle grease on my sandwich.

    I have, however, found one brand of “lite” mayo that I can abide so I’ve decided to switch to it so that I no longer have to endure the FF cheese slices on my sandwich…I do have to admit that I finally found one brand of FF sharp cheddar slices that taste like cheese AND melt!

    Great writing!! I look forward to reading these every day just to get me started!

  30. JudyZ Says:

    The best comment I have ever heard about fat-free cheese comes from the only episode I have ever seen of [i]Queer Eye For The Straight Guy[/i]. At the very end of the episode, the food guy comes on and said “Fat free cheese. It’s the polyester of food. Just say no.”

    Eating less cheese and dairy in general has been the hardest thing for me about WW. Whoever mentioned the difference in Europe is right. I travelled to Switzerland in 1995 and was looking for skim milk (’cause I actually prefer it). When I asked about it I was met with quizzical looks and when I explained further they looked at me and said “Why would you want to take the fat out of milk?” I couldn’t explain.

    Wing Chun, you can make grilled cheese without butter by spraying the inside of the sandwich maker very lightly with cooking spray. Of course I can’t really comment on singles because my husband does all the grocery shopping and would never let them cross the threshold of our house. (That’s not just no-fat cheese slices; that’s cheese slices in general.)

  31. CAD Monkey Says:

    I had to give up all dairy, casein included, for health reasons. *SOB* I actually wish I could eat “real” fat free cheese, because casein-free cheese is SO MUCH WORSE!!

    Love your cheese, in whatever form you can get it- not having it at all is a great loss. 😦

  32. propecia Says:

    I agree with what you say – makes sense to me. Looking for some propecia?


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