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Living with and without lactose

March 11, 2012
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There aren’t many things I miss about food in Israel. As a lactose intolerant, pseudo-vegetarian person who dislikes oily dishes, can’t eat anything with bones in it, despises olives, loves non-kosher seafood, and needed nearly three years to learn to avoid cringing at the taste of tahini, I was not well suited to being thrown into a family with finely honed Ashkenazi/Polish taste buds.

Basic produce in Israel is fantastic though, and I do miss it — tomatoes, cucumbers, oranges, figs, all were exceptionally delicious, even though I desperately missed non-frozen berries and affordable fresh pineapple. I also find I miss having a label for non-dairy/non-meat (parve), which is so much simpler than having to quiz people about ingredients in unfamiliar dishes. Does it have cream? What about butter? Cheese? Milk? Anything else from a cow? What about other animals? In Israel, it was safe to assume that if a dish had meat in it, there was no dairy involved, and I didn’t have to weigh the pros and cons of whether eating something was worth the possibility of being sick (ice cream is almost always exempt from deliberation — I will gladly suffer in silence for it). And since so few places serve pork, and it was well marked when included in a dish, things were simpler than in Japan where pork seemed to find its way into just about everything without warning.

But nonetheless, it’s a good time to be living in America again. After many years of avoiding certain types of food, futilely attempting to discover what ingredients were used in unfamiliar dishes, and being fundamentally opposed to taking a pill in order to eat something my body clearly isn’t interested in ingesting, imagine my excitement when I found this new product at the grocery store:

Yoplait lactose free and light varieties

I’ve been eating fat-free “light” yogurt like the container on the right for as long as I can remember; doctors have always recommended yogurt for the calcium, and the light stuff usually doesn’t make me sick the way heavier dairy does, though it isn’t a 100% guarantee. This new lactose-free yogurt, however, while still low in fat, contained no artificial sweetener and had enough fat to make the texture more appealing. It was by far the best yogurt I’ve had in ages that didn’t come with a lot of stomach pain. It may not sound like high praise to laud something for not inducing nausea, but seriously, it’s fantastic. And only available in America, as far as I know!

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