In my early days of going vegetarian, I briefly flirted with the idea of just dropping all animal products and trying out veganism. I figured I was able to cut out red meat, chicken and fish pretty much (I realize now I just painted myself into a painful pun corner) cold turkey. Here is what I’ve learned: I can never be a vegan. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the animal rights fire burning within, or maybe I realized it just wasn’t cost effective for me to, at the time, make nearly everything by hand. I lived in an age before vegan options regularly appeared on menus. I was a broke student. It just wasn’t going to happen.
But now I realize, at my age where I COULD afford it, I don’t want to be a vegan because I would miss cheese too damn much. And no, soy cheese is not a good substitution. Soy cheese is like getting some cheap knockoff shoes while your friends have the real brands, and your parents keep trying to convince you that your shoes are just as good. No mom and dad, Pro-Wings are not as good as Reebok and Nike, and the fact I was ostracized by my 4th grade class proved this.
And before anyone makes a snide remark that maybe it was my personality, of COURSE it was my personality. But we all had defective personalities, we were honors students. I’m surprised we knew how to interact with each other.
I’ve given soy cheese a chance several times over the years. But I bring it up now because we’ve come a long way from the early days of veggie substitutes. Ian’s Pizza in Wrigleyville (of the mac ‘n cheese pizza fame) now offers a vegan night every Thursday. It’s a great idea, and really shows just how far some restaurants have come to make sure their customers are happy. We rushed over there the first Thursday it was available even though I remembered well my disdain of the fake cheese. What can I say, I’m either an optimist or a glutton for punishment. The veggie pepperoni on the slice I got was delicious; not really pepperoni, but just as spicy. Their crust was light, fluffy and crispy as usual. But the cheese sat there barely melted, looking at it’s fat-filled, perfectly melted cousin. Katie’s slice, the cheese wasn’t melted at all.
This week I stopped at Whole Foods (preparing for Chicago’s #SNOMG) to see Tofurky has released their own vegan pizzas. I bought one, naturally, my experience with soy cheese at Ian’s already forgotten. Too lazy to cook I heated it up last night and ran into the same results. Not only was there not enough soy-cheese on it, but again, it sat under the pepperoni only slightly melted.
Also for 8 bucks? That is a ridiculously small pizza. Shame on Tofurky, or Whole Foods, or both of you.
And that’s why soy cheese will never replace the real thing. You don’t get the visceral joy of cheese forming strings from the pizza to your mouth. You’ll never have a stuffed soy cheese pizza because there’s no way you’d get that sight of cheese oozing out the sides. And we all know the cheese oozing out the sides is the best part of stuffed pizza. It’s why we steal it from other slices.
I’m glad that vegans have an option for a pizza replacement, but until they get a fake cheese to mimic the beautiful, stringy, melty, creamy deliciousness that is real cheese, I can never, ever be vegan.
P.S. This argument also applies to butter.