This is Day 4 of the 31 day series on “How backpacking has enriched my daily life.” I expected lightweight backpacking to be a hobby. Instead it has transformed me for the better.
While in art school I was diagnosed with being allergic to gluten, chicken eggs and cow’s milk. (For some strange reason I wasn’t allergic to goat, sheep, and water buffalo milk products or to quail and duck eggs, so I learned to cook with them instead.)
For ten years I ate very clean, because splurging made me hurt and I prefer to feel great. Then in 2016 I decided to see if my allergies had changed and I tested out chicken eggs. To my surprise I didn’t have any reactions!
Then last June when I was weighing everything in my backpack, assessing what I needed to carry and researching the lightest versions of gear, I was disheartened that a lot of the dehydrated meals and energy bars included cow’s milk.
For 11 years straight I’ve been telling myself that dairy is poison to my body, and here I am considering trying some cow’s milk in the name of making life easier when backpacking. That seemed like a good enough reason, so with my boyfriend cheering me on, I bought a tiny carton of milk. The thought of drinking milk made me cringe with fear. (It still does.) That is the power of conditioning. I kept thinking that the milk in the fridge was poison.
After a few weeks of the milk sitting in the fridge, taunting me, I finally took a cautious sip. I was expecting to have awful stomach cramps. Nope. Nothing happened. Instead I was transported to fond memories of sitting around the dinner table with my family and enjoying a glass of cold milk with the meal.
I’m not good at taking things slow, so once I saw that I didn’t die, I had some more milk. Then I tested out cow’s milk yogurt. No reaction! I had some real butter. It was heavenly.
Food tastes amazing when you haven’t had it for 11 years! I had to make up for lost time, so I started binge eating “regular” ice cream by the half gallon. I was finally reunited with my favorite flavors: Butter Pecan, Rocky Road, and Ben and Jerry’s Karmel Sutra. (For those that know me, you can vouch that I eat pretty clean and mostly organic. Please don’t let this dairy binge taint your impression of my eating habits.)
I’m still allergic to gluten, but life just got a whole lot easier and cheaper now that I can eat milk. To my surprise I mostly prefer to not eat cow’s milk products. Often it doesn’t add to the flavor, so I mostly avoid it. But for the dishes that milk enhances, I am in a blissful state of mind. Don’t even try talking to me when I’m eating pizza with mozzarella and cheddar. I won’t hear you. I’ll be on another planet.
I am grateful for my food allergies and all that they’ve taught me on how to be a resourceful, creative cook. With that said I’m also super excited about all of the backpacking food options that are now available. First up I’ll be making a heavenly backpacking dish of noodles and pesto using powdered: Parmesan, garlic, and basil, topped with toasted pine nuts. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Update: After six months of eating milk, I’ve become itchy all over my body, so I’ve decided to stop eating milk. I will let my gut heal and then I’ll test to see if I can occasionally eat cow’s milk.
Want to read more?
For the entire month of October I’ll be daily posting about, “How backpacking has enriched my daily life.” Go here to see the Table of Contents.