Unpopular Opinion: My Feelings Re: Daiya

The search for a “realistic” vegan cheese, one that approximates all the hallmark characteristics of dairy-based cheese – meltability, stretchability, the-odor-of-old-socksability – is a quest shared by many new vegans (and some grizzled veterans of the veg world). Cheese is often the one, ahem, sticking point when it comes to making the transition from vegetarian to vegan; most people can’t fathom giving up their monterey jack and their mozzarella. We’ve all heard it a thousand times – “I thought about going vegan but I LOVE CHEESE!!1!!!11!” and, “OMG but cheese is so good! How do you do it?! LOL!” and my favorite, “…but how do you eat pizza?!” Because pizza ain’t pizza unless it’s got globs of oily, congealed pus on top! Them’s the facts, girlz and boyz!

Many – if not most – of us have been there. I loved cheese; I enjoyed sharp, tangy cheddars and soft, spreadable bries. Heck, I spent one memorable spring break in France with one of my closest friends, subsisting off hardly more than chevre and baguettes (…and creme brulee). I played the “cheese is too good to give up!” card for a while, but once I stopped eating it, I found I didn’t miss it. Easy peasy. I’ve been vegan nearly a year now, and I can count on one foot the number of times I’ve craved cheese. This might not be the case for everyone, but I’d argue that many – if not most – vegans have a much less difficult time ditching the cheese than they’d anticipated.

But somehow the idea of a vegan cheese intrigues me. Every so often I get a craving for something creamy and rich, and inevitably this leads to me making a vegan mac and cheese dish, since I’m too cheap to go out and purchase vegan cheese. And, inevitably, I end up eating too much and feeling uncomfortably full. I don’t care for too-rich foods, and most vegan mac and cheese sauces are heavy on the Earth Balance. Yick.

Knowing that, you might wonder why I made a [rare] spontaneous grocery store purchase a while back. Why on Earth would I purchase Amy’s new Daiya-based mac and cheese, when even homemade dishes of this sort leave me swearing off mac and cheese for good? Yeah, I don’t know. Once in a while I fall prey to hype, and the Daiya hype – well, it got me. I’d had it once before on a vegan pizza at a veg meet-up, but the delicious veggies on the pizza overwhelmed the Daiya and I couldn’t really make a judgment one way or the other. So I tried the mac and cheese.

Cheese-tastic?

My verdict? BLECH, BLECH, DOUBLE BLECH. I could barely finish it, for the following reasons:

  1. It was way too rich and fat-laden for me.
  2. The cheeze-to-pasta ratio was WAY off – I am NOT a fan of heavy-handed doses of sauces; I like a light coating and that’s it.
  3. It tasted a bit like melty plastic.

Seriously, I did not enjoy this dish. I felt vaguely nauseated the entire time I was eating it, but I was determined not to waste [too much of] it. The bottom line, I think, is that my body just doesn’t tolerate fatty foods well. I’ve always been this way – as a kid, I’d wake up with stomachaches after eating something like buttery popcorn or creamy alfredo sauce. I’d sit in front of the porcelain throne with my oh-so-patient Mommy, sweating it out and miserably counting the tiles on the floor until my stomach gave up and I had to vomit. Even now, when I eat heavy foods, I get stomachaches and I can feel my heart racing faster. If that’s not a sign that I’m not meant to eat fat-laden meals, I don’t know what is. So I stick to cleaner, lighter meals and get my fat in the form of avocados and nut butters and the occasional sweet treat.

This can be problematic – I’m a naturally skinny gal, and when people see thin folks forgoing a burger and noshing on salad instead, they automatically assume the person is on a diet. Incorrect, sirs and madams! I’ve never dieted, and I never intend to do so. I just like – need – to eat the foods that make me feel good. It’s not weight-related whatsoever; it’s all about my health. I do not feel healthy when I eat very fatty foods. That’s the bottom line.

I liken this to the way some people are slightly intolerant of various fruits and vegetables. Certain members of my family who Shall Not Be Named get rather gaseous from bananas and broccoli and spinach, even though they enjoy those foods. Others don’t do well with wheat. And that’s not even taking into consideration major food allergies or something like Celiac disease.

The upshot of all this? Next time I’m in the mood for a spontaneous food purchase, I won’t reach for this mac and cheese. I might give the Daiya shreds a try in a quesadilla or something, but I’ve no immediate plans to do so. I don’t crave cheese, so why fix what ain’t broken? More for all you Daiya-lovers out there, right? :)

Have you tried Daiya? What do you think? Can you tell that your body just doesn’t deal well with certain types of food?

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11 thoughts on “Unpopular Opinion: My Feelings Re: Daiya

  1. “I could barely finish it, for the following reasons: 1. It was way too rich and fat-laden for me…”

    Me too! I’m glad to (finally) see I’m not the only one who had this reaction to the Amy’s mac ‘n’ cheese. I actually *do* like a lot of sauce on my pasta dishes (and dressing on my salads and gravy on my mashed potatoes, etc.), but this was way too rich for me. I felt like I might be sick afterward.

    I do enjoy Daiya on certain dishes or in certain amounts, actually, but what I’ve learned is that indeed, amount matters. For example, if you give me a pizza piled high and dripping with it, I’m not going to make it through (or enjoy) very much of it, but a pizza with a small to moderate amount can be really good. Similarly, I’ve learned that the flavor can overpower if used in too great a quantity in something. So yeah, less is more for me with Daiya.

    And on the topic of mac and cheese, I haven’t made any versions in a very long time (I’ve rarely cooked any meals that require more than a few ingredients or minor effort since reentering singlehood again, to be honest), but I’ve always liked this one from Susan at FFVK: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2007/10/easy-macaroni-and-cheeze.html. It’s very nutritional yeast-y, but I like the stuff.

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    • We can form a small band of “Daiya in moderation only, please!” I think I might pick up a package eventually and follow your suggestion of using a small amount on a pizza – that sounds pretty tasty!

      I’ve been meaning to try Susan’s mac and cheese for a while now! Happy Herbivore has one that also sounds pretty tasty (and not super rich). Thanks for the reminder. :)

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  2. I haven’t tried daiya because I can’tt find it here, but I would if I could. I found soy cheese to have a metalic taste as well, I have recently tried rice cheese which I find doesn’t have that horrible metalic taste. But they don’t melt. I only use it on garlic bread, I haven’t made mac & cheese.

    Food never use to bother me, I could eat anything I wanted, but since going vegetarian, I have been finding deep fried or heavy foods harder and harder to eat. Now I just stay away from them all together. A friend said she found the same thing happen to her. Now I am just about vegan, I can’t really eat cheese now if I wanted to becasue it makes me sick. What a great way to do it. :)

    Now if people make comments about what I’m eating I just tell them I don’t eat it because it makes me sick. For some strange reason people respond better to that then “I don’t want to eat it”

    Sherri

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    • People get uncomfortable when others make food choices they don’t quite understand, whereas if you say it makes you physically ill, it seems like you’re doing it because you *have* to and not because you’re some weirdo who doesn’t eat dairy! :P

      It’s interesting to hear that you’ve lost your taste for heavy food. I know that a lot of the advocates for a low-fat or fat-free style of eating say that fat is addicting, and once you stop eating it, your body loses its craving for it and then doesn’t really want it if you eat too much fat. When we give up animal products, we generally end up cutting out lots of saturated fat, so maybe our bodies adjust to having less of that and then aren’t happy when we do eat something fried or heavy. Or, well, that’s my theory, at least!

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  3. We have a pizza place near us that uses Daiya, and the first time I had it my reaction was just like yours. I could barely eat it, and it made me feel sick. I had to remove the cheese to eat the pizza. There was just too much cheese. We tried again and asked for just a sprinkle, and it was much better, but it’s hard to make most people understand that for me, some foods should only be used sparingly.

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  4. I agree…..in moderation! I’m not a huge fan of a ton of gloppy cheese over everything either. When I make my own pizza, I use the Daiya sparingly and it’s delicious! Or even when I make my own version of mac n’ cheese, I use whatever vegan cheese pretty sparingly and just add a hint more spices and maybe almond milk to make it creamier. Haven’t tried any of the new frozen stuff made with Daiya. Thanks for the review!

    I’d heard a lot of people say they hated Daiya. And I think it’s because they got a pizza with it used, but it had WAY too much on it! I love Daiya :)

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