Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

As we know, the vast divide that separates so many vegetarians from making the grand leap from vegetarianism to full-on veganism falls roundly in one beloved food item: cheese. If I had a nickel for every octo-lavo who earnestly professed their desire to go vegan if it weren’t for the fact cheese is a no-no in the veganomicon.

When I went vegan, the great cheese conundrum bothered me a little.  Who among us doesn’t come across a terrible pizzeria in the post-barroom stumble home and choke back two slices that have been sitting under a hotlight for at least four hours to quell the morning-micro-brew-induced heaves? But hey, I had a greater purpose, it would seem, so I went sans-fromage. I deal, as it were. 

Looking around the vegan blogosphere, you’ll find few strands of consensus among us regarding certain dairy-free food products designed for us. As such, I must have tried at least a ten cheese alternatives over the past few years. I don’t know – perhaps some vegan bloggers get bad-vegan-cheese-payola, because most of them tasted so terrible they’re not even worth mentioning, much less writing about. And I when I say writing I use that term loosely. (The good news about the Internet is that everyone can have a blog. This is also the bad news. Is it me or does every single vegan with broadband and a crappy digital camera have a blog?)

However, one newish cheese alternative is primed to lay waste to all contenders: Daiya. I had been reading about this product for several months; there was a palpable buzz in the online veggie circles. I got to try a little at the Vegetarian Food Fair in Toronto this past summer, but I had yet to get my hands on some in my hometown, which isn’t known for being a haven for leftoid lettuce-munchers like me. But this past week, my local health food store finally, after my harassing them for months, finally started carrying Daiya. Bless them. (Where I am reputedly known as that “loud redhead vegan girl.” Sheesh.)

Made in Vancouver, Daiya is a dairy and gluten-free product, sold shredded in two flavours, mozzarella and cheddar. The stuff doesn’t come cheap, but it freezes well, and is said to last about a week after the package is opened. I'll take their word on this; I've made my way through one package inside of a week. 

Off the top, the flavour is comparable to any mid-market cheddar or mozzarella. But where Daiya really shows its swagger is in its texture, and the fact that it actually melts and stretches when cooked. This last bit is where most of its harried competition falls decidedly short. How the good people at Daiya actually manage this is unimportant; my guess is it involves science. As my 90-year-old grandmother would say, there are some things in life so good you shouldn’t bother to ask about – you know, gift-horses and such. I would implore you to do the same. With that in mind, I will end here, and direct you to Daiya directly for where you can find it, and more info if you want to jinx us out of our spectacular luck and a lifetime of tasty dairy-free grilled cheese sandwiches.

Without bias, Daiya is the best there is for now. To be blunt, I could snort the stuff. Until some hallowed food chemist creates the perfect vegan mango ginger Stilton, Daiya will do me just fine. So yeah, hark.