There is so much excitement around trying all the new dairy-laden foods, but it comes at a price. Knowing what real cheese tastes like compromises my love of all things vegan. My nondairy pizza club came to a crashing halt as soon as I tried cheese. “You’re just not going to like the fake stuff anymore,” my pizza club pal told me.
It’s true, faux cheese often doesn’t stand up. I now understand when people have told me in the past, “it’s good, it’s just not cheese,” especially about nut-based cheeses. Even BC (before cheese, © my girlfriend Andrea) I knew many of my dairy replacements were only tolerable because I didn’t know what I was missing. The shredded cheese that proudly proclaims its melting and stretching capabilities was always a little sticky, but after tasting the real deal, going back to the shreds is pretty weird.
I have been slow to return to my BC haunts. I recently took a trip to one of my favorites, ByChloe, to see if the mac and (fake) cheese could hold up. The mac and cheese has an orange sweet potato based sauce and is topped with mushroom “bacon.” The dish is still delicious, but it is not like any dairy mac and cheese I have had so far. It doesn’t taste quite like cheese either. It remains a good alternative because it tastes delicious, but it’s not quite what it’s trying to be.
I still really enjoy vegan food, and it’s interesting to come at it from this new angle. Before, I had something to compare fake meat to, and now the same is true of fake cheese. I had a lot of preconceived notions about what cheese would taste like because of all the replacements. It did not taste like I had expected. Often fake cheese overcompensates for the sharp taste (an adjective I am still trying to grasp) with extra flavor. Real cheese actually has less taste than I was anticipating. That said I still have about a million more kinds of cheese to try.