When it comes to veganism, the lack of cheese is where we start to lose people and where, I think, we developed our "vegans be crazyyyy!" status. I don't know what it is about cheese, but it has got such a firm hold on our western society that to the mainstream it seems almost blasphemous to abstain from it. I can't count how many times I've heard the phrase "I can be a vegetarian but there is no way I could ever live without cheese". Up until two years ago, I myself was a frequent dropper of similar kinds of statements that equated a lack of cheese with death.
To this day I don't quite understand what exactly it is about cheese, because when you do stop and think about what it actually is, it's quite gross. I was lactose intolerant for most of my life for Christ's sake and I still refused to give it up until about two years ago. Because apparently at the time writhing about on the floor clutching my stomach after dinner seemed more sensible than not eating cheese.
One of the issues I had with giving up cheese was a lack of suitable alternatives to a shredded cheese that melts and tastes at least somewhat like cheese. I tried tons of different brands...some I tolerated, some I spit out into the sink, and none were reminiscent of cheese enough to make me feel it was worth the trouble. I preferred to simply do without. I generally feel the same way about the faux meats, although I do entertain them now and again (mostly for Paul's sake).
A couple months ago I started hearing about the Daiya brand. And not just hearing about it, but hearing people positively FREAK over it. I saw the advertisements, I saw the pictures and I read the testimonials and my initial thought was that it was entirely too good to be true.
I got word that the brand had gone retail and it was for sale at Panacea in Toronto. A friend of mine so kindly offered to make a stop and buy me a load of vegan products that are not available here in Kitchener, and so this weekend I found myself with two tubs of Daiya: one mozzarella and one cheddar.
I was positively giddy over the prospect of eating something cheese-like again, although not necessarily because I miss cheese. Quite frankly, these days I actually have trouble remembering how cheese tastes (interestingly, I have not forgotten how all of the cheese-induced stomachaches felt).
Truth be told, I just want another point for our team - an item available to those newly transitioning to veganism that wasn't available to me that might make it that much easier to take the leap. Because the whole cheese thing is such a huge hurdle for so many in our society it becomes a powerful roadblock to our cause. I just want there to be something out there for those who are teetering on the edge of veganism but are afraid of a life without cheese (of all the things to be afraid of!).
Despite all the rave reviews, I wasn't prepared to go easy on Daiya. And so for my first meal featuring this product I turned to the quintessential cheese item: pizza.
Back in the day, I was a cheese pizza kind of girl. A double cheese, extra tomato sauce kind of girl - to be exact. I was going to do the same thing with Daiya but these days I feel quite ridiculous eating a dinner with absolutely NO vegetables present whatsoever, so I tossed on some onions, garlic, green pepper and mushrooms.
So, this is my attempt at a non-biased, calm and orderly review:
THIS PRODUCT IS FREAKING AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It comes shredded. It looks exactly like mozzarella. It even kind of smells like mozzarella (from what I can remember). You put it under heat and it actually melts (something sorely lacking from many other dairy-free cheeses - they simply flake and crumble in the grossest possible way). I know this kind of excitement over a melting property may seem wildly insane to all you non-vegans out there, but those of you who have tried other vegan cheeses will share in my glee over this innovation. And it even does this without the help of isolated soy (or any other kind of soy either - Daiya is completely free of soy and other allergens).
I loved the taste. Loved it! I have never been able to say that about a vegan cheese before; at best I have tolerated them, but Daiya is positively delicious. Now, it is not exactly mozzarella-like (not that I really remember what mozzarella tastes like, it's been years). It is definitely close enough to mozzarella and delicious enough on it's own to help those in cheese-withdrawal to cope in their early days of veganism (and for those of us who are veterans to satisfy the random cravings that sometimes grip us).
I'm still not on board with giving faux meat and dairy a prominent focus in the vegan diet because I think it often detracts from the VEG portion of our name, but I am for anything that can be enjoyed without the needless suffering of animals and anything that can help people realize that veganism is not about sacrifice, it is about being rewarded by the prospect of a peaceful lifestyle. You can now have your veganism, and eat your cheese too. Thanks Daiya!
I'm not done with this project yet. I've still got half a tub of mozzarella and a full tub of cheddar to go, so stay tuned!