Shortly after my wedding, the doctor gave me some bad news. I was allergic…to basically everything I ate. Thankfully, this happened after the wedding. Had I known in advance that I was allergic to both the tomato sauce and the cheese in that lasagna, I might have enjoyed it just a bit less…
Long story short, I embarked on a life without tomato and without cheese (no one really cares about the rest of the list). I couldn’t believe how good I felt! My brain functioned so well! My memory, always notoriously bad, was working like a champ. Then, an experiment. Pizza… This experiment did not go well. Actually, I tried it several times (glutton for punishment…) and it never ended well. Lots of Benadryl and asthma inhalers came into play.
Thankfully, in Redmond, finding dairy substitutes was no trouble. In the United States we even have dairy free chocolate chips available at most stores now. I happily chowed down on non dairy cheese and non dairy ice cream, content for the most part with my modifications.
Then came the UK… specifically Guildford, Surrey. Suddenly, my shopping options were Sainsbury, Marks & Spenser, and Waitrose. Oddly, they all seemed to have the same exact products, with slight variations on the packaging. My first several months were hard. No more coconut milk ice cream 😔 No more non dairy, non soy yogurt (yes, I’m allergic to soy too). 😔 No more Daiya cheese 😔 No more non dairy chocolate chips! Actually, initially I couldn’t find chocolate chips at all. That took me about 6 months. Now I rock at chopping chocolate blocks though! Score one for UK!
I can feel readers from all over the UK getting ready to revolt. Yes, I know there are stores where I can find many of these things and I did… eventually. Those foodstuffs I took for granted in the US just weren’t as readily accessible in our town. Finally, one day in Clapham, I saw it… like a shiny beacon in a gray, smoggy world… WHOLE FOODS!!! How did this bastion of yuppie comfort food end up across the pond? I have no idea and frankly, I don’t care. I was just so happy to finally have access to some of the treats I loved so much. Needless to say, I stocked up a bit…not too much, it was still an hour commute back to our house. Just a bit 😉
Whole Foods became a special treat for me. In the two years we lived in the UK, I only shopped there about 5 times. Had they been located in Guildford, I would have probably camped out in the parking lot. Unfortunately, commuting via train into London is rather expensive and time consuming. Without a compelling reason (more compelling than a yen for crunchy baked snap peas), I couldn’t justify that kind of trip with a toddler. Who wants to go through an hour on a train with a 2 year old? Masochists, that’s who!
Thankfully, this forced me to re-acclimate my body to dairy (at least small amounts). My memory immediately took a hit, and I kept eye drops with me at all times. Allergy related dry eyes just aren’t fun.
Fast forward, two years. Hello Göteborg, land of amazing cheese and sauces! The first week was rough! Who can turn down delicious cheese or Swedish meatballs?? Not this woman. Then one day, only two weeks in, I discovered that Sweden is not just a dairy rich country. They believe in non dairy too! Non dairy yogurt, probiotic drinks, milks, cheeses, and ice cream are all readily available! Ice cream, people!!! Do you know what I discovered last week? Non dairy ice cream bars, made out of rice milk! Now, I’m not going to lie and tell you that these are as good as those delicious sugar coned treats we bought as an occasional treat at school in 3rd grade. They are too sweet for that. Nonetheless, suddenly I have a cone filled with ice cream and covered in chocolate readily available. Thank you Göteborg!
Life is now much easier. Unfortunately, it’s still hard to reject the tasty cheese. On the topic of cheese, the pizza here? Amazing. Pesto, cheese, ham, and pineapple on a super thin crust is officially my idea of pizza heaven. Needless to say, I still have a bit of brain fog and dry eyes.
Someday soon, once the novelty wears off, and once I find a vegan pizza parlor, that too will pass.
Until next time…