A Romance in Cheese

February is the dreariest of months.

So in order to accentuate the dreariness, we decided to make the month our Whole30 offering.

You may have heard about the diet. It basically means no coffee shops, no dates (except the fruit kind…😳), no restaurants, no fun and lots and lots of onions.

It was quite a slap in the face to James and me, who live in the middle of downtown and love to keep no groceries but raw vegetables and then step out our front door and waltz off to see the world and grab a croissant. The worst was that I could have no cheese.

Cheese has been a long love affair for me. Beginning with Wallace and Gromit claymation as a little girl ("cheese, Gromit!"…if you don't understand that reference, you should look it up…) At my wedding, I specifically chose an artisan cheese board. At Whole Foods, I dwell over the cheese bar. I love cheese. I suppose it’s the British-Irish in me. Every year I go on diets and cleanses, but never yet have I gone over 7 days without cheese. Until February.

For 30 days I broadened my horizons. I found out that you can make things tasty without cheese by adding lots of garlic and onions and herbs to everything you cook. Or tomatoes. Who knew? And that you can make amazing fried potatoes with only a little coconut oil and salt. Or that grass-fed beef and pastured eggs are the best thing in the world. In fact, I didn’t miss cheese at all. I didn’t miss sugar at all. I didn’t miss carbs one bit. 

And then the Whole 30 ended and the first thing I decided to add back in was a little cheddar cheese on my fried egg.

BAM. My whole body felt like molten metal dripping to the floor. I was like Olaf the snowman in summer. I lay down and staggered over the revelation that the ‘exhaustion waves’ I’ve struggled with my whole adult life are because I eat cheese. Wail 😭. More specifically, I eat cheese that’s pasteurized and covered with chemicals rather than fresh raw cheese.

I tell James.

“Really!” he says. “That puts a whole new spin on why we had that awful argument out of the blue that one time.”

“What? When?” I say. And then the video reel of memories in my head fast rewinds (remember that?) back to another day.

A summer day. Bright and sunny. James and I are in the blissful season of our dating lives, where our world consists of James picking me up at 10am and whisking me off to enjoy the wonders of springtime until 9pm that night. 

James drives me south down Nolensville Pike, past green meadows and beautiful houses. We are young and in love, the sun is shining, our dreams our spooling out in front of us with the highway. We stop at a tiny little community consisting of an Amish grocery, a thrift store, and an antique shop. We window shop and then go into the Amish grocery and buy a big hunk of cheese. We haven’t had any lunch, so we decide this and a couple colas will be our picnic.    

We eat the cheese as we drive further down the highway towards Franklin.

Why isn’t James talking to me? I look over at him. There is a glazed look about his eyes. I am so tired. My veins feel like they are filled with lead.

“Are you ok?” I ask.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” James says. “Why?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I just feel like you’re distant.”

James sighs in exasperation. “I am not distant!”

“Yes you are! I feel like you’re not interested in talking to me.”

“I thought you didn’t want to talk to me!”

“No, I just can’t think up anything to talk about.”

“I feel like you’re not interested in me! You know, sometimes I think we fight too much. Maybe we need to think about this.”

“We never fight! I mean, compared to most people.”

“I don’t know. Why do you always feel like I’m distant?”

“I don’t always feel like you’re distant!”

Silence reigns in the car. 

I break first. It’s a bad habit of mine from the times I had fights with my sister as a little girl. If I didn’t say sorry first I’d feel guilty. So: “I’m sorry, I’m just so tired.”

“Why are you tired?”

“I don’t know.”

The sun is darkening. A wind kicks up in the east. I turn off the air conditioning. James turns back on the air conditioning. I turn on John Mayer. James switches it to John Coltrane after the first song. The second song was my favorite.

The mood thickens.

And then James reaches over and pats my hair, rubs my shoulders. “Sorry honey, we can listen to John Mayer if you really want to. Why don’t you like air conditioning?”

“I hate air blowing on me.”

“What!?” James looks at me, horrified. There is nothing he loves more than air blowing on him. Apparently when he was a toddler he’d fall asleep on the floor with his face in the stream of the air vent.

“Yeah.”

“You know what? I don’t feel very good,” James says.

“Me neither.”

“It’s the cheese.”

My memory video reel fuzzes out at a walk in a green meadow across from the Franklin factory and becoming happy again as the cheese digests. My mind shimmers back to the Present. 

“It really was the cheese!”