Fake cheese

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Nick Roumel

Real cheese is sublime.

I recently tasted a decadent camembert, with a fulsome rind, on a wisp of a wafer. And a rich parmesan reggiano, with a hint of sweetness at the finish. Yum.

And then there is fake cheese.

Why I bought the frozen pizza with this “stuff” is between me and my therapist. Daiya, regarded as the best of the lot, boasts the following ingredient list for its “mozzarella”: Filtered water, tapioca flour, expeller pressed non-GMO canola and/or safflower oil, coconut oil, pea protein, salt, vegan natural flavours, inactive yeast, vegetable glycerin, xanthan gum, citric acid (vegan, for flavour), titanium dioxide (a naturally occurring mineral). One blogger notes this is not food, but a “science experiment.”

Aficionados claim Daiya “melts well.” So does a plastic bottle. I find that Daiya looks good, but has no taste. Even more cruel, because it looks reasonably cheese-like, it tricks your brain into thinking you’re going to bite into gooey goodness. But your taste buds know better — they will not be deceived.

In my opinion, you’re better off eating the cardboard box. At least with the box, there’s no false hope that it will taste good; you know what you’re getting.

Yes, there are legitimate reasons to not eat real cheese. Let’s examine those, shall we?

Vegans. They have principled opposition to using any animal products. Fine. So just eat real food, OK? There are so many beautiful and vibrant meals that can be made, with fresh vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains. So why venture into the dark, sinister world of fake cheese? It’s like looking at a sunset, except through a thick, dirty window. Except it’s not a sunset at all, but a picture of a sunset. But it’s not really a picture of the sun at all, but a picture of an orange on a blue table. And maybe even a plastic orange.

Tip: get a real pizza, loaded with mushrooms, onions, garlic, spinach, red peppers, and olives. And no cheese.

Lactose avoiders. Whether celiac disease, lactose intolerant, or lactose free by choice, I respect that. What I can’t figure out is how humans, born to be raised on milk, have gotten that way. Regardless, if you don’t eat lactose, see “vegan tip” above, and skip the fake cheese.

Germophobes. There are people who find out how real cheese is made, and they are horrified. They learn about the role of bacteria, the festering Petri dishes that are raw cheese, and that hay dust falling into milk buckets causes the holes in certain Swiss cheeses. Yet paradoxically, cheeses are among the safest foods to eat, even unpasteurized, unaged raw milk cheeses, if made properly.

So unless your favorite cheesemonger is fresh out of all cheeses (see this classic Monty Python skit: https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=cWDdd5KKhts) there is no reason to eat the fake stuff. Whether dairy or not, it’s real food that pleases this palate.   

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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and wrote a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor.

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