Sunday, November 14, 2010

"There's Bread and Cheese Upon the Shelf"


During the winter, I need to avoid eating certain foods due to the interaction with another drug that I take to ward off the winter blues. As you might have guessed, one of these foods is cheese. And perversely enough, the Dutch aren't called "cheese eaters" for nothing: there is a lot of cheese. The inescapability of cheese was driven home earlier this week: I'm a vegetarian as well, which the catering staff usually accommodates with...cheese sandwiches.

Living with a dietary restriction (vegetarian) is difficult enough. I make exceptions for fish dishes at restaurants, because Dutch restaurants in general suck puppies at making decent vegetarian food (minus poffertjes, but even their savory pannenkoeken typically involve something meaty). Many restaurants don't even have a non-meat option, or else they consider their fish dish to be it. But even when I go to friends' houses, it's always a bit of a struggle for them to figure out just what do I eat. "You don't eat...any meat?" The relief when I tell them I will eat fish is palpable.

Overall, my experience as a vegetarian here has been a neutral-to-negative one: it's hard to find good vegetarian food unless I'm the one who makes it, and my boyfriend is most emphatically a more carnivorous personality, so if I cook something it needs to accommodate his tastebuds as well. The lone exception is ratatouille, which we both love, fortunately, but unfortunately it's not in season any more.

Durig the winter, though, the addition of cheese to the list of things I must not eat (chocolate is on that list, too, but I've decided that a tiny bit of chocolate every now and then is okay--cheese is the biggie) makes things incredibly difficult. I sometimes find myself with half a cheese sandwich, not realizing I'd started. I'd venture that it's harder to escape cheese than it is to be a vegetarian.

Ironically, the Dutch have one of the louder animal rights' groups in Europe. They gather outside the animal facility where I work, for regularly-scheduled protests, and they hand out pamphlets in the city decrying research on cute little puppies and kittens (though apparently doing bad stuff to rats and mice are perfectly okay). There's even a political party for animal rights--at least, that's the name of the party, so I assume they are fighting for Shadow's right to pee in a box. The Dutch animal welfare laws regarding animal research are some of the strictest in the world. In other words, politically, you wouldn't think that I'd have such a hard time of being a vegetarian here.

Escaping cheese...I'll keep dreaming. Maybe the Matrix will yield one day.

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