Hello, c’est moi! Megan Burns! And I’m here to potentially ruin your day (maybe even life)! (Sorry, I hate me just as much as you do!)
As an ex-Catholic extraordinaire, I know that since today is the start of ye olde Lent, some people will be doing the whole meatless Fridays thing. Whether or not any of those people are reading this, I can’t be sure. But the subject was on my mind out of the aforementioned ex-Catholic seasonal habit, and while I’m personally not 100% non-carnivorous (yet), I 100% support eating less meat and dairy/eggs in general. So here we are, talking about it!
When I was a kid, we’d sometimes do fish on Fridays during Lent, because pescatarianism is allegedly an acceptable animal protein loophole in the eyes of G-O-DOUBLE-D. But more often than not we’d opt for a big ol’ cheese pizza, ’cause that’s way more appealing than fish sticks, duh!
Turns out, we were probably unwittingly ingesting loads of rennet, oh boy! And what’s rennet, you ask? Well, according to this internet definition, it’s “curdled milk from the stomach of an unweaned calf, containing rennin and used in curdling milk for cheese.” Not all cheese, but lots of it, including most varieties of Parmesan womp womp.
While I’d known that things like gelatin/gummies/marshmallows weren’t veg-friendly for years (and that was a real brain buster), it took me until pretty much now to find out that cheese was more sinister than previously believed. WHAT NEW FRESH HELL?!
The good news is that there are cheeses which use vegetarian or microbial rennet, which is derived from (you guessed it) vegetarian-friendly sources. That said, you’ve gotta check labels to ensure the kinds of enzymes being used. If it’s vegetarian, it should explicitly say so in the ingredients listed. Example: I’m a real big fan of this one grass fed extra sharp cheddar from New Zealand sold at Trader Joe’s, and it lists a veg-friendly rennet as an ingredient CLEAR AS DAY. (THANK U KIWIS!)
You can also, obviously, opt for vegan “cheeses” should you find yourself able to reconcile with the fact that you are eating “cheese”. (And there are some dope varieties out there in 2020, so don’t knock ’em ’til you’ve tried ’em! Miyoko Schinner is a beautiful vegan witch I just know it!)
Basically, there are ways around this dilemma (which you now know about, thanks to me // again, SORRY!), so it’s not the end of the cheesy world. Is it kind of super annoying that I disclosed this information to you? I mean, yeah, every single day I look in the mirror and go, “WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?! YOU USED TO EAT BALUT AND ANTICUCHOS AND ETC. WITH RECKLESS ABANDON!” But the more I understand the environmental and ethical impacts consuming meat (and dairy/eggs) when little to no thought is given to how they’re sourced (I’m looking especially at you, commercial factory farming), the more I can’t stop thinking about it. (Here I thought Lent was the worst as a kid, and now as an adult I’m eating like it’s Lent 90% of the time for non-god reasons // GO FIGURE!)
And so here we are! Is everyone okay!
In sum, I’m very sorry that I potentially wrecked your cheese feels, but…