Written on 06/05/2019

I was staying with a friend once who had already, when I stumbled out sleepily, hair askew, made a Pinterest-worthy breakfast. She plated it beautifully, topping it off with a dollop of cottage cheese and strawberries. She set it down in front of me with a flourish. 

“This is amazing! But,” I looked at her questioningly, “Aren’t you lactose intolerant?”

“Yes,” she admitted with a shrug and a shy smile, “Sometimes it’s worth it.”

“What happens if you eat it?” I asked hesitatingly. “I don’t really want to go to the ER in my pajamas.”

“Well, basically, I’ll have a stomach ache all day. I’ll feel super bloated and probably look like I gained ten pounds,” she said nonchalantly as she took a bite, eyes rolling back in pleasure over what I had generally considered a pretty normal food.

I was stunned. It was a whole new perspective for me. Gratitude for my clearly privileged life blossomed through me as I watched her slowly savor every morsel. She was oblivious to the world as she reveled in those few moments of pleasure before the consequences set in. From my vantage point across the table, it looked like that beautiful home cooked breakfast was the least of the meal for her. I even felt a little guilt as I realized how obviously I had taken the luxury of eating cottage cheese for granted.  I ate my portion with new appreciation.

Later that day we passed an ice cream shop. She stopped me, pointed, and sighing dramatically said, “It’s always worth it for ice cream, but I’ve already spent my dairy allowance for the day!”

I realized then that she uses humor and mock drama to downplay how much it actually affects her life. I had rather forgotten about it after those few minutes at breakfast, but she was suffering the after-effects all day. There was no forgetting it for her.

I remember wishing in that moment that I could share my all you can eat dairy allowance with her, but that kind of allowance just isn’t transferable. I determined then that when she came to visit me, I would take her to my favorite home-town original Sub Zero Ice Cream.

Sub Zero is a different experience for people with allergies and intolerances. Different in a good way. Usually lactose intolerance means buying your ice cream at specialty stores or tiny specialty sections. You have a quarter the selection, and pay twice what everyone else pays because you’re different. It means missing out when your friends go out for ice cream, unless you grin and bear it, trying to convince yourself that it’s worth it or pretend that it’s not bothering you. Can’t there be more places that offer such customization that all of your friends, no matter their dietary needs, can enjoy an evening together without leaving one or two out?

The experience at Sub Zero Ice Cream is all about customization, equality, liberty and justice for all. Someone with a dairy allergy can choose a coconut milk base, customize non-dairy mix-ins, choose from tons of non-dairy flavors, resulting in literally hundreds of possibilities. Their imagination can run wild, creating flavors they’ve never been able to try. All this, and they still pay the same price as their allergy-free friends. They can enjoy the night without their usual repercussions. No guilt, no constant stomach-aching reminder, just fun and ice cream with friends. That’s the power of choice, and it’s something they’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.