Imitation Cheese, anyone? To Soy or not to Soy

In general, I am not a fan of faux food. Faux meat, faux cheese, faux butter. There is not a lot of tempeh, seitan, tofu, tapioca, or soy in my diet. A little is fine, but these products are so frequently used to create fake versions of hot dogs, chicken nuggets, burgers, and cheese… It can get excessive.

Soy, in particular is a common cheese replacer. But it can be problematic, causing bloating, increasing estrogen levels, and most soy produced in the U.S. is genetically modified, not organic. We have come a very long way from the simple nutritious edamame bean. So instead of eating soy in everything, I prefer, now and then, to just have organic scrambled tofu or tofu fries. Yum! Or even a few edamame beans in a salad, or liquid aminos to give umami flavor to a sauce or dish. Tapioca is a delicious cheese replacer. It is starchy and helps to create good texture. But again, I don’t want tapioca in everything and prefer to just eat the root it comes from. (Yuca, Casava, Manioc). And rather than relegate any foods to mere imitations, isn’t it preferable to celebrate these foods for what they are on there own, in their truest form?

That said, I AM a fan of hitting all the same bells and whistles on a vegan diet as one gets on a diet of animal protein and dairy. A good vegan diet can provide plenty of umami, heartiness, meatiness, saltiness, and yummy flavors and textures that one might get from animals. And this can absolutely be done with the straightforward flavors and textures of organic plants.

But every rule should have its exceptions, yes?

When my baby girl was small, if ever she was sick she needed two things… homemade chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese castles. These castles were nothing special, except to us. Basically just a grilled cheese sandwich with little notches cut out to give the idea of towers and drawbridges. If one is sick and loopy enough, or has a very good imagination then a little girl can be a sniffly little princess watching Disney movies with her own castle.

Now my dd is older and enjoys a mostly vegan diet. Chicken and dairy are pretty much OUT. It has been quite some time since my kids got the sniffles. But here they are today (at the time of this writing) coughing and feeling cruddy. It doesn’t matter that she is not a little girl anymore or that she towers over me, Mom instinct kicks in and the compulsion to create a grilled cheese castle is just too much! So for probably only about the 2nd or 3rd time in my life, faux cheese is going in the shopping bag. Daiya, to be exact. Sliced, cheddar flavored. (Note: This one is tapioca based.) Full disclosure – I do not consider Kite Hill products to be fake cheese. They are real almonds. And delicious all on their own, as real fermented almond milk. 🙂

So with vegan butter, vegan bread and faux cheese, the simple vegan grilled “cheese” castle was born! I do not know much about the other brands, but daiya slices melt beautifully and taste very much like a cleaner processed cheese. My dd looked at me with puzzlement and confusion as I handed her the castle, but then with two words, her eyes lit up and she was free to be a comforted little princess again with cheesy goodness. “It’s vegan!” … maybe that is technically three words?

Occasionally a little substitution can be a lovely and comforting thing. Occasionally…


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