Freshly Baked: Lactose Intolerant

Opinion by Tim Moon
May 24, 2011, 12:28 a.m.

Freshly Baked: Lactose IntolerantLast summer, I was browsing the incredible cheese section of Milk Pail Market, that wonderful little market, when I was interrupted by a man with a faint European accent.

“Do you eat cheese?”

I was a bit taken aback, and I must have looked accordingly confused, as the man quickly followed up his initial question by saying that his wife was Asian and could not stand all the cheese that he always brought home, so he was wondering if I was into cheese. I, in fact, was very into cheese, and finding that we were kindred spirits, we had a nice conversation about cheese.

For a while, I thought that my ability to eat cheese and drink milk put me squarely in the extreme minority of Asian-Americans who aren’t lactose tolerant, and I loved it. I couldn’t imagine life without the cold milk poured over my bowl of morning cereal, without the gooey cheese hanging off the edge of a slice of pizza, without a Klondike bar. Whenever I saw my afflicted friends having to down a couple of Lactaid pills before digging into a hot slice, I smirked a little on the inside, laughing at their deficiency of the enzyme lactase.

One morning a couple of weeks ago, I woke up, had a big bowl of cereal with skim milk, then went back to bed (it was a Sunday, and I was tired). I woke up feeling extremely uneasy, stomach a-churning, and I curled in a fetal position on my bed, fighting both the stomachache and the realization that I might be becoming lactose intolerant. ARGHAAAHAH. Since then, the couple of times I’ve had cereal, the milk hasn’t sat quite well with me, but I’ve been hoping that the first Sunday was just a case of bad milk and that I’ve been imagining the subsequent stomach aches out of paranoia. I suspect, however, that it might actually just be my stomach hating me for forcing milk into it. All good things must come to an end, I suppose.

Like…Stanford. Having to graduate and leave has been weighing heavily on my mind recently, and while it might not be quite as devastating a change as losing the ability to properly process lactose, it is a pretty big step, one that I’m sure has been on the minds of other members of the great class of Oh-Leven. (Non-seniors, the rest of this might not relate specifically to you, but you can always keep these comments in your pocket for later.)

Stanford’s not perfect, but it’s pretty damn awesome. A friend from home visited this past weekend, and seeing him impressed by all the things that had become so mundane to me (he kept describing Stanford as “like a vacation spot”) confirmed again just how lucky I’ve been to have spent the last four years here and made the fact that there’s only four more weeks left feel even weirder.

We’ll be fine, of course. Will we look back on our time here and, every once in a while, wish that we could go back, like how I’ll sadly look back upon my cheese-eating glory days? Sure, but at least we had that time, and reliving the past through our memories is always fun. Will we need to find other ways to make friends, feed ourselves and do other adult things? Sure, but if I could switch to using almond milk on my cereal, I can surely make those adjustments too, and if I can do it, anyone can do it. Some parts are going to be even better, although we might not realize it yet — until I had to switch off of regular milk, I never knew how delicious almond milk was, but now I think I might actually prefer it to normal milk. I’m no Van Wilder, never wanting to graduate, never wanting to grow up — I’m ready for what’s next, and that’s the general sense I’ve been getting from most seniors.

But there’s still three weeks left, no need to hurry ourselves out. There’s a Catalan proverb I’ve always liked: “it’s better that it should make you sick than that you don’t eat it at all,” and it seems especially relevant with just four more weeks. Three more weeks to do everything that we need to do, have been meaning to do, have always wanted to do.

Like…eating a wheel of cheese (or a pizza, I guess, although that wouldn’t be as amazing) with all my friends. I’ll take the stomachache.


Tim is partial to Comté, but if you have a better suggestion for what wheel of cheese he should eat, send them his way at [email protected].


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