Sunday, February 19, 2017

Lactose Freedom!

It was a sad day more than a decade ago that my husband discovered he was lactose intolerant. For years he'd had bouts of gastrointestinal issues, and finally narrowed it down to those times when he'd consumed dairy products. As I wrote at the time:

"It was a very bad day. One of those days that forever changes you. A day that delineates a definite 'Before' and 'After.' The life-altering occurrence? My husband found out he was lactose intolerant. And, no, not just the 'take a Lactaid pill and have some cheesecake anyway' kind of lactose intolerant, but the kind where it's inadvisable to partake of butter, fresh cheeses or any product containing milk without risking...ahem...shall we say 'explosive repercussions.'"

Not being inclined to use someone else's intestinal tract as a personal science project, I decided to eschew dairy in family meals and focus on those that could be made with oil or margarine instead. Fortunately many of the world's most delicious cuisines are not heavily dairy-based, including most Asian cultures and those of Italy, Spain and other countries of the Mediterranean.

I was able to cheat at times, since he seemed to tolerate well-aged cheeses, anything that had more than six months or so of aging. So extra-sharp cheddar and the then newly available lactose-free milk products went into making a pretty decent version of macaroni and cheese.

We dreamed of the day when more lactose-free products would start appearing on store shelves. A part of that desperate wish was granted when lactose-free whole milk, rather than just two percent, became available, expanding our culinary universe a smidge. But butter and cream were still beyond our reach.

Then, miracle of miracles, my sister-in-law announced that she had found lactose-free butter at the store and, even better, it was certified organic. Dave immediately went out and bought a half-pound chunk, planning to slather a few pats on his morning toast—and declaring it an official (and delicious) great leap forward. He even started dreaming of making buttery, flaky, lighter-than-air croissants.

Come to find out that the same company, Green Valley Organics in California's Sonoma County, also makes cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt and kefir. And that meant I could once again make long-missed desserts like—Be still my heart!—cheesecake and indulge in dishes like Indian tikka masala. Even better, it turns out Green Valley products are available in stores around town and, while definitely more expensive than other organic products, are well worth the price for those special dishes that are so much better with (real, organic) dairy.

(PS: We're still waiting for the heavy cream.)

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