I was never very conscious of dairy in my diet until I came here. I suppose that might have been because I hadn’t given it a second thought. But when you’re served condensed milk with your tea it’s difficult not to fantasize about cow’s milk (skimmed, please) as an essential ingredient in your diet.
The Thai diet doesn’t include dairy products though thankfully - as I can’t imagine tea without milk in it - it’s purchasable in local supermarkets in all its variation: fat, semi and skinny. Condensed milk is popular over here; it lasts forever and nothing is too sweet for a Thai tooth. As time has passed, I’ve become more tolerant and if I’m out and about I’ll shrug and pour a tiny bit of condensed milk into my tea if that's all that's on offer. Still, it’s never going to become a habit, not even to avoid smelling like dairy. (I remember being mortified when I discovered that Thais think white westerners smell of cheese/milk. Actually…I’m still a bit ‘ewugh’ about that.)
Cheese is a staple too – particularly now there’s a vegetarian in the house. It’s so versatile but most of what we bought here was rubbery, bland and expensive. We met a French family when we arrived here. Son was a good friend of their elder boy and one day when I must have been withdrawing from the lack of decent cheese, I asked Son to enquire where they bought their cheese. They’re French, I thought, they’ll know some secret cheese emporium… Son came back with a French shrug… ‘France’ was the answer. They told Son they don’t bother… I still get a yearning now and again but it’s also so fattening unless it’s a corker, I won’t waste the calories.)
I grew up on good strong flavoured varieties like Stilton, Camembert and cheddar that could make your eyes sting. Limburger made an appearance too, mostly for the kudos of being able to get it in your mouth without being utterly repulsed by the smell. Still, I like mine ripe; knocking on the cupboard door if possible. Husband and Daughter are cheese wusses. Although I’ve tried to train Husband in the delights of the stinky foodstuff he still shudders at some of the memories he has of my family’s cheese plate. The anecdotes are unpublishable here.
Son and I were very pleased to discover, two weeks in a row, some particularly tasty Camembert in one of our local supermarkets.
We’ve had a lot of pleasure out of the cheese; a sneaky wedge here, a sandwich there. Even the necessity for me to eat it on rice cracker rather than bread hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm. We’ve also had quite a lot of peripheral enjoyment: watching Daughter’s expression when she opens the fridge because the Camembert shouts out its presence with a particular pungency. We’ve had endless amusement devising ways of getting her to inadvertently smell the cheese. ‘Hey, Daughter,’ we’ve said full of faux enthusiasm, ‘check this out.’ She turns around only for us to shove the tub under her nose: we’re rewarded with that face again. Such fun.