Eggplant Parmesan Hero for the Famiglia Bean
When I was a vegetarian, I was fat and unhealthy. There was one reason and one reason only: CHEESE. No, seriously. My cholesterol count rivaled the one belonging to my carnivorous dad, and he eats the really gross stuff like liver and tongue.
I was always a picky eater; I eschewed most of the animal products offered me growing up in a S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) household–even as a baby. But cheese was a different story altogether. We were friends.
I officially went vegetarian in my early teens and basked in the excuse to eat cheese all the livelong day. Then, when I went vegan in my mid-twenties, the sudden omission of cheese was pure culture shock: it seemed you could get a substitute for just about everything–even caviar and haggis–but not simple cheese. While many vegan items on the market surpassed their non-vegan counterparts, the cheese options were just place fillers.Time passed and many improved substitutions surfaced, but nothing really hit the spot. I eventually stopped trying to replace my old friend after paying a small fortune to import a product from the other side of the world, only to have it arrive an unappetizing grey, gelatinous blob.
And then a vegan acquaintance whispered magic words to me as we wandered amidst the pigs at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. “I’ve found cheese,” she said, and I believed her immediately. Besides having been a reliable source of food recommendations in the past, vegans generally just don’t lie about these things: specifically not in a setting as serene and noble as a farm sanctuary!
So, I tried it immediately. Wow. People, I’m talking about Daiya. If you’ve had it, you understand. If you haven’t, go order some pronto! It’s. That. Good.
I often joke that I went veg on the merits (or lack thereof) of hot dogs and lunchmeat–before being introduced to more grown-up cruelty like veal and lobster. So, when I tore into my first package of cheddar Daiya, I began happily reliving my childhood with staples such as grilled cheese, nachos, cheese fries, and ‘tato skins. Yum, yum, yum, and yum. I immediately ordered the mozzarella flavor. Unfortunately, I had exhausted my long-lost cheese repertoire; I could barely remember what to do with mozzarella since it had been out of life for so long. And then I convinced my incredible cook of a mother to make eggplant parmesan. Amazing. My father even thanked her profusely for making him a separate platter with “real cheese” (give us a break with the lying; he’s the type of man who would stop eating edamame if he knew they were soybeans). Then came ziti, cheesy garlic bread, and pizza. And then I ran out… but more is on the way!
The experimentation will continue and I can already feel my cholesterol rising again. KIDDING! It’s vegan, duh. But I will have to make a concerted effort not to plan every meal, every day out of this delectable cheese that has made an unexpected reappearance in my life. I’m telling you, this changes everything.
To be completely honest, I’m not sure why Daiya seems to remain such a secret amongst vegans even though it’s been out for months. Maybe each person who finds it wants to stockpile it for themselves, for fear that the supply will run out? The company seems to be focusing on distributing to the food service industry (yay!), but the veg community does a lot of home cooking. To that end, until the retail version is released, the lovable folks at Pangea are repackaging the food service version so that we can get our hot little hands on it right away. Thank you, Pangea cheese angels!
What else? Oh, it’s kosher and free of many allergens: soy, wheat, barley, corn, rice, gluten and nut for starters. For goodness sake, see their website for the particulars; I need to go make some baked macaroni & cheese!