Advice for the Newly Lactose Intolerant

Dear Jesse,

I’m a cheese lover - in fact my entire food budget is arguably structured around how much money I can legitimately spend on new and interesting cheeses. Unfortunately I seem to be suddenly developing symptoms of lactose intolerence- and this at age twenty! While a medical diagnosis is still in the pipeline I was wondering if you’d ever heard of this happening before? Also, if the worst should happen, do you have any tips? I’m happy to switch to soy for my three-cups-of-tea-a-day lifestyle but I’m not exactly how to restructure my cooking if I have to knock out butter, cream, milk and my beloved cheese.

That’s pretty lousy. I know I would be devastated if I lost cheese from my diet.

As an initial disclaimer, it is worth noting that I hold degrees in neither nutrition nor medicine.

That having been said, I am pleased to tell you that if your problems do indeed stem from a lactose intolerance, there is, to my knowledge, a very good chance that you will still be able to enjoy sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, and hard aged cheeses without issue.

The form of lactose in cow’s milk is apparently not the same as is found in other species’ milk; and the aging process winds up transforming lactose chemically.

Unfortunately, that will not help you, for instance, to comfortably enjoy the sharp tang of a 5-year-old vermont white cheddar, but you can be consoled by the likelihood that a French sheep’s milk roquefort still may fit into your digestive capabilities.

With regards to cooking:

♦ I noticed that my fairly run of the mill grocery store stocks canned condensed goat’s milk and also powdered dry goat’s milk. The East End Food Coop (if you live in Pittsburgh) stocks fresh goat’s milk. You may be able to switch to this as an alternative for baking and creamy soups, etc.
♦ Sheep’s milk or goat’s milk yogurt can help substitute for sour cream or, potentially, even cream for baked goods (this may require some experimentation).
♦ I would suggest a switch to lard and coconut oil for a replacement to butter when you need a harder fat (like in a pie crust or for high temp cooking). Coconut oil, for instance, would likely work well for making a streusel topping or making a muffin or biscuit with luxurious mouthfeel. Lard (and other animal fats) are fantastic for sauteeing or roasting vegetables (mushrooms cooked in pig fat are delicious!)
♦ For other purposes, try stocking a wide range of oils and experimenting with their use. A nice olive oil (especially when seasoned by sauteeing some garlic in it) makes a nice dip for a hunk of good bread; grapeseed and walnut oil are both good for many cooking purposes.
♦ These substitutions will definitely impact your bottom line when it comes to grocery shopping. They all tend to be more expensive than butter. Check TJMaxx for cheap, high quality specialty oils; or your local Italian specialty shop for bulk olive oil (Penn Mac is a great choice in Pittsburgh, you can refill your jug each time you go back from their bulk section).

Best of luck!

Jesse

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