The search for a “realistic” vegan cheese, one that approximates all the hallmark characteristics of dairy-based cheese – meltability, stretchability, the-odor-of-old-socksability – is a quest shared by many new vegans (and some grizzled veterans of the veg world). Cheese is often the one, ahem, sticking point when it comes to making the transition from vegetarian to vegan; most people can’t fathom giving up their monterey jack and their mozzarella. We’ve all heard it a thousand times – “I thought about going vegan but I LOVE CHEESE!!1!!!11!” and, “OMG but cheese is so good! How do you do it?! LOL!” and my favorite, “…but how do you eat pizza?!” Because pizza ain’t pizza unless it’s got globs of oily, congealed pus on top! Them’s the facts, girlz and boyz!
Many – if not most – of us have been there. I loved cheese; I enjoyed sharp, tangy cheddars and soft, spreadable bries. Heck, I spent one memorable spring break in France with one of my closest friends, subsisting off hardly more than chevre and baguettes (…and creme brulee). I played the “cheese is too good to give up!” card for a while, but once I stopped eating it, I found I didn’t miss it. Easy peasy. I’ve been vegan nearly a year now, and I can count on one foot the number of times I’ve craved cheese. This might not be the case for everyone, but I’d argue that many – if not most – vegans have a much less difficult time ditching the cheese than they’d anticipated.
But somehow the idea of a vegan cheese intrigues me. Every so often I get a craving for something creamy and rich, and inevitably this leads to me making a vegan mac and cheese dish, since I’m too cheap to go out and purchase vegan cheese. And, inevitably, I end up eating too much and feeling uncomfortably full. I don’t care for too-rich foods, and most vegan mac and cheese sauces are heavy on the Earth Balance. Yick.
Knowing that, you might wonder why I made a [rare] spontaneous grocery store purchase a while back. Why on Earth would I purchase Amy’s new Daiya-based mac and cheese, when even homemade dishes of this sort leave me swearing off mac and cheese for good? Yeah, I don’t know. Once in a while I fall prey to hype, and the Daiya hype – well, it got me. I’d had it once before on a vegan pizza at a veg meet-up, but the delicious veggies on the pizza overwhelmed the Daiya and I couldn’t really make a judgment one way or the other. So I tried the mac and cheese.
My verdict? BLECH, BLECH, DOUBLE BLECH. I could barely finish it, for the following reasons:
- It was way too rich and fat-laden for me.
- The cheeze-to-pasta ratio was WAY off – I am NOT a fan of heavy-handed doses of sauces; I like a light coating and that’s it.
- It tasted a bit like melty plastic.
Seriously, I did not enjoy this dish. I felt vaguely nauseated the entire time I was eating it, but I was determined not to waste [too much of] it. The bottom line, I think, is that my body just doesn’t tolerate fatty foods well. I’ve always been this way – as a kid, I’d wake up with stomachaches after eating something like buttery popcorn or creamy alfredo sauce. I’d sit in front of the porcelain throne with my oh-so-patient Mommy, sweating it out and miserably counting the tiles on the floor until my stomach gave up and I had to vomit. Even now, when I eat heavy foods, I get stomachaches and I can feel my heart racing faster. If that’s not a sign that I’m not meant to eat fat-laden meals, I don’t know what is. So I stick to cleaner, lighter meals and get my fat in the form of avocados and nut butters and the occasional sweet treat.
This can be problematic – I’m a naturally skinny gal, and when people see thin folks forgoing a burger and noshing on salad instead, they automatically assume the person is on a diet. Incorrect, sirs and madams! I’ve never dieted, and I never intend to do so. I just like – need – to eat the foods that make me feel good. It’s not weight-related whatsoever; it’s all about my health. I do not feel healthy when I eat very fatty foods. That’s the bottom line.
I liken this to the way some people are slightly intolerant of various fruits and vegetables. Certain members of my family who Shall Not Be Named get rather gaseous from bananas and broccoli and spinach, even though they enjoy those foods. Others don’t do well with wheat. And that’s not even taking into consideration major food allergies or something like Celiac disease.
The upshot of all this? Next time I’m in the mood for a spontaneous food purchase, I won’t reach for this mac and cheese. I might give the Daiya shreds a try in a quesadilla or something, but I’ve no immediate plans to do so. I don’t crave cheese, so why fix what ain’t broken? More for all you Daiya-lovers out there, right?
Have you tried Daiya? What do you think? Can you tell that your body just doesn’t deal well with certain types of food?