I stopped eating meat about a year before I finally went vegan. Although I was pretty intolerant of lactose for most of my life (I spent my childhood partaking in pharmaceutical cocktails before birthday parties), I was terrified at the prospect of living a cheese-less existence. Even for a year or so after I had become aware of the violence committed in the name of producing dairy, I remained under the cheese spell. I had no problem throwing in the towel when it came to every other animal product and byproduct - chocolate bars at Halloween, dairy ice cream sundaes in the summer, cow's milk on my Cheerio's, scrambled egg sandwiches before school. But I was definitely one of those that used and abused the phrase that us vegans have come to loathe a bit: "I wish I could be vegan but I could never give up cheese". Even after I realized the contradictory nature of my strong opposition to not only all kinds of meat, but my particular objection to veal, which is as much a product of the dairy industry as a glass of cow's milk. Even after I felt sick to my stomach after eating most days. I simply refused to stop with the cheese.
I wish I could say that what finally caused me to break up with cheese was a new level of awareness about the plight of dairy farm animals and an instance where my ethics matched up with my actions. Unfortunately, it was far more selfish than that.
Paul and I were celebrating our second wedding anniversary at a cottage in the Grand Bend area of southern Ontario. The cottage didn't have a television and our getaway was smack in the middle of the 2008 Eurocup tournament. Being the soccer fanatics that we are, we found ourselves a pub that was airing the semifinal games and so we pulled up a chair and some beer and ordered a plate of 3-cheese nachos.
Two hours later, I was pretty violently ill. More ill than I ever remember being post-meal. And in between moaning and clutching my stomach I did a little soul searching - why. Why on EARTH was I participating in something that I not only morally objected to on pretty much every ground, but also something that had spent the majority of my 20+ years on the planet absolutely destroying my insides? Before then I knew in theory that cow's milk is meant for baby cows and baby cows alone but here was my concrete proof of its unsuitability to the human digestive system, ruining my summer vacation.
I thought I really loved the taste of cheese but now that I'm nearly three years cheese-free, I've realized that I was more so addicted to it than actually into it. To this day when I think of that plate of nachos, with the grease pooled up in the particularly curly nacho chips, I gag a little bit and thank heavens everyday that it did what it did to me, or I would never have found out just how amazing being free from it is. Four years ago I could have never imagined being someone who is quite literally repulsed by the concept of cheese. I know this probably sounds ridiculous to the lot of you, and quite honestly three years ago it would have sounded pretty ridiculous to me too, because it sounds like I am talking about heroin or binge drinking. But seriously, the second you say the sentence "I could never live without _______" you've lost control. And I used to fill in that blank with a capital C-H-E-E-S-E.
At the time of that sketchy nacho plate, there really weren't many suitable cheese alternatives in the vegan world. Maybe if there were, I would have stopped with the dairy long before I actually did. But back then I figured I was committing myself to a lifetime without anything even similar to cheese and at that moment, in that small town in southern Ontario, I was confident in living my life without ever again having a traditional slice of pizza or a plate of cheesy enchiladas.
And then, two years later, Daiya arrived. Quietly and discretely, without a drop of soy in it, in cheddar and mozzarella and on the shelves of many a specialty store. Now, in 2011, it's even available in chain supermarkets and restaurants and even those who aren't vegan are giving it a try when they realize what dairy is doing to their insides and the insides of their little ones. Daiya is taking over the world, my friends!
And here is the latest edition to their cheeseless cheese army:
When Paul spotted it at the Healthy Haven in Kitchener and brought a pack home, I knew I had to end my three-year Nacho Shutout. Here is how I did it.
Vegan Nacho Supreme
10 oz diced seitan
1/4 cup all-natural barbecue sauce
1 bag of your favourite restaurant-style tortilla chips
2 tbsp chili powder (or to taste)
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
1 diced tomato
1 diced jalapeno pepper (or chipotle pepper, if you're feeling frisky!)
3/4 cup salsa
1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
2 cups Daiya Pepperjack style shreds
1 avocado, diced (I was out of avos when I made this, but please, do add it!)
1) Preheat oven to 375F. In a small saucepan, combine diced seitan and barbeque sauce, and allow to sizzle for 4-5 minutes (or until crisped up).
2) On a large pizza stone or pan, spread the tortilla chips as evenly as possible.
3) Sprinkle tortilla chips with chili powder.
4) Top the chips with onion, bell pepper, jalapeno/chipotle pepper and tomato.
5) Spread the salsa overtop the vegetables as evenly as possible.
6) Top the salsa with the black beans, corn and avocado (if you have it).
7) Sprinkle Pepperjack Daiya over absolutely everything.
8) Finally, top with the seitan.
9) Toss pizza pan into the oven for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is sufficiently melted. When finished, pull it out of the oven and let settle for a couple minutes, because it is going to be pretty hot to the touch.
This makes a ton of nachos so it makes a perfect party snack. We, being the gluttons that we are, ate it for lunch one day last week (don't judge!).
So, three years later, my feud with the almighty nacho plate has come to a thrilling conclusion. After that Grand Bend incident I honestly thought we'd never be able to reconcile. Thanks Pepperjack Daiya, for bringing the Nacho back!