Ew Your Cheese Smells Like Feet

How Removing Dairy From My Diet Changed My Sense of Smell

Photo by Michael Competielle

For most of my life cheese has been an important staple in my diet. Breakfasts often consisted of a smear of cream cheese on a bagel or an egg omelet with melted cheese. For lunch I’d love a sub sandwich with cold cuts and thinly sliced deli cheeses. Swiss, American, Provolone and Fresh Mozzarellas we’re regulars.

Evenings my wife and I would share with our slightly overweight dogs blocks of Champagne Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, Swiss and Colby Jack. For dinner we would have blends of mozzarella, parmigiana and ricotta mixed with pasta. Ravioli, Tortellini and Cavatelli with homemade sauce and sprinkled with Pecorino Romano was a weekly tradition.

Friday nights we would feast on nachos grande sprinkled with a four cheese taco blend or a large Brooklyn pizza pie. Desserts we would treat ourselves to ice cream, gelato and cheesecake.

We ate cheese daily and the chances were slim to none we could ever give up our love of fromage.

It is little over a year ago until I watched and my wife heard from our kitchen a rather disturbing video from Erin Janus on the dairy industry.


The content in this video highlights the Dairy industry in a graphic matter and the content is unsettling. Immediately upon watching this film I had vowed to never consciously consume dairy products again. If you love your ice cream or cheese I highly suggest you pass on this video and watch some cheesy feel good videos. You’ve been warned.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Years ago while in my late teens I spent a summer in Otsego County in Upstate New York. With charming villages nestled along the 70 mile long Unadilla River and large expanses of forest the area was a perfect location to just get away. Driving up the old single lane country highways I’d pass dairy farms and cattle farms often populated with hundreds of baby calves chained to small white huts. After only a few short days I began to learn these calves, often males as they were unable to become “dairy cows” were kept in close quarters to keep their meat tender as they would soon become what we know as veal.

Veal is the meat of calves, in contrast to the beef from older cattle. Veal can be produced from a calf of either sex and any breed; however, most veal comes from young males of dairy breeds which are not used for breeding. Generally, veal is more expensive than beef from older cattle.


Since that time I’ve only once (and only mistakenly) eaten veal. With such harsh living conditions and without any quality of life I refused to make veal a part of my diet.

Upstate NY was a perfect place to pick up the occasional odd job often helping farmers with haying, fence repair or working as a farm hand. Working for slightly more than gas and cigarette money, I’d work a 9 or 10 hour day at various farms. I became friendly with a family of dairy farmers, 3 high school aged boys who’s father had passed away. Afternoons and evenings I’d head on over to help relieve the boys from the 8 days a week job of running a farm.

Armed with my horse farm work experience I helped herd the heifers and female cows across the busy street into the dairy barn. Cleaning stalls, feeding and watering was my specialty as the brothers would proceed with the milking process. Tubing ran inside the barn to the milk room that contained huge stainless steel tanks of freshly pumped raw milk. Every other day the affiliated processor would send trucks to pump out these tanks. An evening treat would be a small cup full of the freshly pumped milk.

For many years I consumed milk based products with pride feeling that the dairy industry was generally wholesome. I’m uncertain at that time if these farms would have been considered organic and free range as I’m doubtful those were everyday terms of those times. I ignorantly assumed dairy cows consistently produced milk in a natural and pure way. It wasn’t until I had watched Erin’s 5 minute video did I learn the truth.

Weening myself off of dairy products wasn’t as difficult as I assumed it would be. For years I was using Almond Milk in my coffee so the challenges would be cheese, butter and cheese.

Oh how I love cheese.

photo by Michael Competielle

My wife and I quit cheese cold turkey (oh we quit turkey too and all other meats and fish on one fell swoop). Having heard that the non-dairy or Vegan cheeses were quite simply gross, we built a revised diet around rices, beans, grains, fruits and veggies as we boycotted anything remotely similar to meat and dairy products.

Watching scores of YouTube videos and reading hundreds of webpage articles we gradually began to reintroduce and consume Vegan cheeses and pseudo meats. Our first Vegan pizza was simply delicious as we devoured the entire thin crust brick-fired pizza with plant based cheese.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Our son who only occasionally makes the Vegan switch claimed the nondairy cheeses weren’t horrible as he helped us devour vegan pizza. With plant-based diary items gaining a massive growth spurt the availability of ice creams and cheeses has increased.

Walking thru our local high end supermarket we try our best to avoid the cheese aisle. The aged and moldy smell that reminds me of old gym shoes reminds me of the horrors I saw in the above video.

Our collective efforts to remove dairy, meat and fish has been a success as we recently celebrated our one year anniversary being on a plant based diet we look where we stand and feeling complacent about our stance while happy to have made the transition.

Oh and your cheese, it smells.


Costa Rica’s Biodiversity My Introduction Into a Vegan Lifestyle

photo by Michael Competielle

A few years ago good friends of my wife and I invited us to accompany them on a trip to Costa Rica. Having never been there before, we certainly were up for the trip and quickly agreed, excited to explore the known to be lovely Central American country. La Costa Rica means “rich coast” with a long and skinny landmass flanked on either side by the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. With over 800 miles of coastline and a northern border with Nicaragua and Panama to the south Costa Rica is Tropical paradise known for its biodiversity.

According to the Happy Planet Index Costa Rica is the happiest and most sustainable country on the planet. With the coastal plains separated by rugged mountainous regions the country is home to over half a million species of which 70% are insects. According to INBio Costa Rica consists of 4.5% of the worlds biodiversity with 12,119 species of plants of which 950 are endemic.

Photo by Michael Competielle

Landing in San Jose we headed to the rental car agent and procured our necessary 4 wheel drive SUV to climb the dirt road to our villa in the mountains above the Southern Pacific coast.

With our GPS plugged in and programmed we started our 2 hour trek down to Costa Rica’s Southern Pacific Coast. With surprisingly well build and smooth roads we headed through the lush mountains to to the Pacific coast and headed south towards Quepos and followed the Pacific coast. We passed through the town of Dominical a surfers hamlet known for year round waves.

We eventually arrived into the Village of Uvita known for the Envision Festival as well as wildlife and nature. Our friends received the keys for our villa named Casa Aracari located 400 feet above the stunning whales tail in the Marino Bellana National Park.

The mountainous dirt road was heavily rutted from the recent rainy season. In four wheel low we slowly climbed the rugged terrain passing the poshKura Resort and for one week our next door neighbor. Opening our private gates we pulled up to the breathtaking property.

With a mixture of tropical plants and hardscaping we followed the gravel driveway to the charming yellow masonry home. Accented with thick beams and slabs of local teak, Saltillo tiles floors lead out to the patio and private infinity pool overlooking the Pacific coastline below.

Ceiling fans cooled the space while the topmost wall areas had screened in pillars to exhaust the days heat. Sounds of birds, insects and monkeys could be heard during the warm quiet evenings.

Photo by Michael Competielle

After unpacking we decided to head back down the arduous mountain into the quaint village below. On a local corner we met Emmanuel a produce merchant that loaded the entire rear of our SUV with fresh watermelon, mangoes, papaya, oranges, pineapples and bananas.

The local grocery provided the essential coconut water, rice, coffee, eggs and bread. Surprisingly the markets fish and meats were less than desirable.

Over the next few days we traveled the beautiful countries jungles, oceans and villages. Examining much of Costa Rica’s lovely flora and animal life we never knew what to expect.

Photo by Michael Competielle

As always I researched before we had left for the trip understanding the Tico way of life, Pura Vida. We made fresh mango salsas with yellow rice and lime soaked plantains from our properties trees and fresh tropical drinks from coconuts that had fallen by the pool and papaya cocktails…we were in heaven.

We ventured into Dominical the surfers enclave for local art pieces, food and bath products in Mama Toucan’s organic health food store. We also were in search of fresh fish which we ultimately purchased from a local fish monger I ordered in my broken Spanish “se vende pescado?” Which he replied “si” with a large cleaver in hand. We purchased two large fresh red snappers that created the evenings rice, beans and fish dish.

Traveling the lovely coastal country we came upon large palm oil farmsalong with black smokey palm oil polluting the air from the palm oil extraction process. The palm trees planted near Quepos and Jaco were know to have been responsible for ruining the areas biodiversity by killimg off what once was the once jungles lower canopy. Small shanty homes cropped up around the plantations roads provided housing for the local farm hands.

In our adventures we saw the countries native born Tico way of life. Pleasant and respectful people that cherished the land and the maintenance of the large abundance of plant and animal life.

My friend a bit more of a meat lover than I was hoping we could find him some decent steaks. In our ventures we would see the Brahman cows known to survive well in arid terrain but looks less than desirable than the New York strip steaks we were accustomed to, we passed living almost entirely on fruits, vegetables and some fish.

Photo by Michael Competielle

One afternoon we headed to a local artists home/ studio. Mel and Misha living in a cute home less than a quarter mile from the Marino Bellena beach. We talked art, Costa Rica’s culture, local living, and Misha’s computer business. They offered some homemade ice creams they made from coconut they collected on the beaches and laughed how we’d paid for fruits we could’ve collected freely in the nearby jungles.

We talked about Costa Rica’s beef which Misha informed us wasn’t like our Jersey cows however some Tico farmers were now raising them. He mentioned a meat market in town that imported the ever coveted NY strip steaks where we headed off and purchased.

To be honest the meat wasn’t the same and seemed almost unnecessary after the bulk of the weeks delicious plant and fish based offerings. We loved our travels to Costa Rica certain we would certainly return.

Heading back to the States my wife and I made a conscious decision to attempt to maintain our Costa Rican diet once home. Upon entering the local New Jersey markets we laughed at the inadequate offerings of tropical fruits and vegetables in November compared to the quality. And quantity eaten on our recent journey.

We continued on a with a Pescatarian lifestyle for the next few years and very infrequently eating meats. Since that time we’ve become Vegan, examined biodiverse farming and Costa Rican life. Once again to return as Vegans living on the fruits of paradise.

Michael Competielle