The Milk Problem


Lactaid is disgusting. Unfortunately, I’m forced to drink it because I can’t digest milk products. I’m starting to think someone is out to get me.

I’ve tried different soy milks, almond milk, rice milk, etc., but there is a problem. I love cereal and none of these works like regular milk. I used to drink skim milk, until I became lactose intolerant, and have been on a quest to find a non-dairy milk that will work as a sufficient substitute. My attempts have been failures.

I find this beyond frustrating, especially when I wake up in the morning wanting something other than oatmeal or eggs. I’ve found refuge in fruit smoothies, though they can’t have any yogurt, another crucial diary product that I miss dearly.

This whole problem started when I was in Morocco. We were on a six-day trip through Tarifa, Fes and Rabat, and had stopped at a hotel on our way to the Sahara Desert. In Morocco, it is a delicacy to drink mint tea, a luscious blend of hot water, fresh Moroccan mint leaves, and about a cup of sugar per pot. Their trick is to mash the mint and sugar together in a mortar to infuse the flavors together. Then, they pour in hot, unboiled water.

At the beginning of our trip, we were warned to be cautious about eating anything that may have been washed in tap water – apples, cucumbers, tomatoes – fruits and vegetables that can be served with the peel on. The issue for the tea was that like the tap, the water they used was never heated to boiling point. Any bacteria living in the water was well, still alive. Not to mention, given the traveling we were doing, bottled water was highly advised – both to lessen the burden on our stomachs and keep us from getting sick from a water we were not used to drinking.

Yet in this hotel, the act of brewing the tea was almost like a ritual. A man sat on a rug off to the right of the center lobby and invited guests into a circle around him. He had a large platter next to him with tiny expresso size glasses, and filled each one with the hot mint tea. There was something sort of sacred about it, and I decided there was no way I was going to allow myself to travel all the way to Northern Africa not to try their famous drink.

I had 3 cups – probably too much to drink considering the warning, and the fact that I was about to ride a camel for 3 1/2 hours into the desert. But when I tell you this was the best tea I have and will ever taste, it is no joking matter. I’ve tried to recreate the tea at home, many times, even with native Moroccan mint leaves that I bought at an herb pharmacy in the Medina of Fes. I was so excited about the mint itself, that I purchased 4 bags of it for family members – at the time, I didn’t realize that the thin white paper it was wrapped in made it look like I was trying to smuggle illegal drugs, and so I made my parents take it back to America after I buried it at the bottom of their suitcase. At almost 60, I figured they looked less criminal than I did at 21.

Needless to say, I believe this Moroccan mint tea was the reason for my milk problem. While it may seem to you like I make this an unnecessary medical quandary that only I must undergo, ponder this: the next time you’re at an Italian deli, or perhaps, at a Pizza shop in New York City, cross out every option that reads, “Caprese,” or “Margherita.” What about the butter on your popcorn at the movies, or a cup of passion fruit-coconut twist at Pinkberry? Red Velvet cupcakes? Hollandaise? That’s what I thought.

If I could, I’d use soymilk with my cereal, maybe even rice milk. But it doesn’t taste the same. For now, I guess I’ll just stick to a later wake-up time. That way, I can focus all my energy on my favorite meal of all: the sandwich.

P.S. If you can enjoy dairy, and like cottage cheese, please indulge in this for me: 1/3 cup fat free cottage cheese, a handful of blueberries, 1 T dried cherries, 1/4 cup crunchy granola (preferably with toasted almonds), a drizzle of honey and a pinch of cinnamon. It will change your life.

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About leahrovner

Natick, Massachusetts
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2 Responses to The Milk Problem

  1. Leah.. I can certainly relate to your dairy challenges and have ultimately learned to live a life dairy free to avoid the problems. It is sad.. but eventually the cravings went away and frankly, the cravings were never as bad as the result of eating dairy! 😉 That said.. be sure you take calcium and over endulge in lots of green leafy veg. OK.. that’s my “mom” moment of the day. Love the blog. I talked to someone for an hour about food yesterday.. shortly after returning from an all-you-can-eat chicken and waffle brunch (seriously).. so I GET it. Big time. Keep it up girl. Great stuff here… can’t wait to hear more!

  2. Tracy says:

    Leah,
    I have new favorite non-dairy breakfast treat for you:
    toasted whole wheat english muffin(and for the love of mike, dont buy Thomas’), almond butter, sliced strawberries and a drizzle of agave nectar.
    Enjoy!
    Love the blog! keep it up!!

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