Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Daiya Experiment...Part One: Pizza

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:



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!


Krystina said...

The cheddar makes amaaaazing quesadillas.

melissa said...

Very exciting! I have yet to try it because the last vegan cheese I had was so disgusting I couldn't even swallow it. I've heard rave reviews about Daiya, but I was worried about being disappointed... Thanks for sharing!

Jessica @ Lima's Vegan Kitchen said...

Ive never tried this brand but after your review, its next on the list. My favorite faux cheese uses rice milk instead of soy because I cant handle some of the brands that at soggy and watery-ew! But this one sounds great! Nice review.

Anonymous said...

Love the Daiya cheese. I strongly recommend freezing it though because it molds super fast. In the freezer it lasts forever and it easily defrosts.

Anonymous said...

Daiya is a regular item found in my fridge now. I especially like the "mozzarella". Do you have a recipe for the yummy pizza you've pictured?

Mary said...

Thanks for the comments all!

Melissa - I had the same experience with previous vegan cheeses...I highly recommend trying Daiya - I am very critical of faux meats and cheeses and I LOVED it!

Jessica - I hope you like it! I can't believe how delicious it is...I think it would be amazing just melted on some broccoli and other veggies!

Anon - thanks so much for the tip...I was thinking I should freeze it soon. The best before date is July 3 but better safe than sorry...I think I might cry if I had to throw any out!

As for a recipe, there really isn't one! I went to our local vegan-friendly baker and got a whole wheat pizza crust, as well as a spicy tomato sauce (made by Unico, I believe, widely available in grocery stores). I topped the dough with the sauce and then the sauce with the cheese...chopped up mushrooms, onion, garlic and green pepper and tossed them on top of the cheese and then just a sprinkling more of the cheese on top. If we had some on hand we would have included some broccoli...I thought it would go really great with the creaminess of the cheese. I baked it at 425F for about 15 min and it was good to go!

elizabet said...

Terrific post! I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of vegan cheese and Daiya. I prefer to make nut-based cheeses at home (and only a few are worth the time.)

I feel like Daiya is the first step on the right path to "cheese" that omnis will accept.

And, there is casein! That milk protein is addictive, I think that definitely attributes to the cheese obsession.

Stonzi said...

it truly is a revelation. thank god they finally came up with a realistic cheese substitute for us. i can't stop eating it! :)

Noelle said...

Nice post! I recently made my 1st vegan pizza as well using Daiya cheese and it was AMazING!!!!! Congrats on your recipe. Looks delicious. I could have pizza all the time.

Anonymous said...

I dig the cheddar. Mozzarella, not as much but it is still good (Except when you use too much).

Cheese is the one thing I miss since becoming a vegan.

Cyclediva said...

Just found your blog (thanks to Daiya posting a link on facebook). I too love Daiya. I like to tell people who ask that it is the only vegan cheese I've ever tried that you can eat right out of the bag. It's that good. My non-vegan husband likes it better than the real thing (which is great, maybe he'll take that final step). We are fortunate here in So. Cal that our local Ralphs supermarket has begun carrying it.

AWLHEART said...

Opiates hide inside casein, the main dairy protein. As casein molecules are digested, they break apart to release tiny opiate molecules, called casomorphins. One of these compounds has about one-tenth the opiate strength of morphine. The especially addicting power of cheese may be due to the fact that the process of cheese-making removes water,lactose and whey proteins so that casein is concentrated. Scientists are now trying to tease out whether these opiate molecules work strictly within the digestive tract or whether they pass into the bloodstream and reach the brain directly.

Graygrrrl said...

I heart Daiya so much! The cheddar is amazing in quesdillas or enchilada's. What's so great, is because it melts so well you can enjoy the King of comfort foods with out all the nutritional yeast : Mac & Cheese!

Roasted Garlicious said...

your pizza looks absolutely delicious!!! I've looked for Daiya Cheese here on Vancouver Island and no go... am so jealous!!! cheers to good food!

Addicted to Veggies said...

Damn. I would love to get my hands on some of that --- if only for a taste. They haven't started carrying it in my remote little northern california town yet.

Maddy said...

love love love Daiya. can't wait for more veggie restaurants/pizzerias to start serving it!

Abigail S. Bean said...

Glad to see another Daiya lover like myself; I haven't been disappointed with one thing I've made with it:

Samantha said...

I recently had the pleasure of trying Daiya for the first time...at a restaurant! I live in Oakland, CA and all of the Amici's Pizzeria's in the Bay Area recently started offering Daiya as a topping, for no extra charge! It was absolutely delicious, and surprisingly creamy. Rumor has it that Whole Foods is going to start carrying it, but I haven't seen it at my local store yet. Thanks for the review!

Carissa said...

I like your blog and great review on Daiya. I am in love with it too! So far, it is great for nachos, grilled cheese, and pizza :) I am following you now! Check me out and follow too if you like :) elilaiann.blogspot.com

Mary said...

Elizabet - I like to make nut-based cheeses as well...you just reminded me, it's been awhile since I've done a good cashew cheese!

Stonzi - I know the feeling, we are putting it on EVERYTHING!

Noelle - Thank you! I am loving that "cheese" pizza is again an option in my life.

Anon - haven't yet tried the cheddar, now you've got me really looking forward to it!

Cyclediva - That's so great that your omni gives it his approval; that's exactly what we need to remind non-vegans that going vegan is less troublesome than they might think it is.

Awlheart - fascinating! I have read studies on the addictive powers of cheese, I will have to do more thorough research.

Graygrrl - my husband tossed some into quesadillas and said it was incredible! I'll have to try it next week when I make enchiladas.

Roasted & Addicted - Still haven't got it in my neck of the woods either; I've started hounding my local natural food market to start carrying it!

Maddy - me neither!

Abigail - everything on the blog looks great!

Samantha - we don't even have a Whole Foods around here! I am probably going to be out of luck with the Daiya for some time.

Carissa - I will check out your blog :)

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