I want pizza. I don’t care what kind: New York-style, Chicago-style, flatbread, french bread, personal, pan, I don’t care. I just want pizza. No, let me be absolutely clear: I want pizza that doesn’t taste like cardboard slathered with tomato sauce and topped with school paste.
If there is one reason my venture into veganism doesn’t take, it’ll be because, of all the things the processed food industry has managed to mimic, cheese remains the most elusive...and I’ve got to get me some. As a black person blessed with lactose tolerance, cheese is a coveted pleasure, one I wasn’t excited about giving up, but hey, it’s only 22 days...plus, there are so many great alternatives now, right? Right?
I say this as I gnaw my way through a vegan cauliflower crust pizza topped with a pea protein-based “cheese” my Sonicare will no doubt be scraping from my teeth well into tomorrow. (And no, I will not name brand names, because my mom told me if I don’t have anything nice to say then not to say anything at all, and it’s her birthday, which is the one day each year she has my unequivocal obedience.) To say this lunch is mediocre would be the highest compliment.
In short, on Day 13, I’m struggling. I struggled all weekend as I entertained my editor and friend, Managing Editor Genetta Adams, as she visited Chicago for the first time, and as I look at a list of now non-inspiring options on the 22 Days Nutrition meal plan—options that, to be fair, looked intriguing two weeks ago, I’m struggling still. I don’t need the steak I’ve been craving, but a plate of nachos that don’t involve a nut cheese? A bowl of cheese grits? A healthy sprinkle of pecorino over a bowl of fresh pasta? Yes, please.
Or macaroni and cheese. Or a grilled cheese—preferably accompanied by a cream-based tomato bisque. Or just a European-style yogurt to go with all this damned granola, for chrissakes. Yes, I am weak; and my urge for dairy is strong.
Why am I telling you this instead of extolling the virtues of chickpeas on toast or a white bean and cashew puree alfredo sauce? Because after a weekend spent drooling over dairy-based offerings (and sipping cocktails to dull the pain), I think it’s only fair to tell you that if you’re about trying out this vegan life, there will come a moment when the cravings hit—hard—and without delectable options, you will struggle, as I am now.
This is the part where you start to flood the comments section with the best cheese substitutes known to man—and trust me, I will be grateful to receive them. I will also still long for the real thing with every fiber of my being. And yes, I know this is bigger than cheese; I’m grouchy, and likely protein-deficient, and maybe a wee bit hormonal, so there’s also that.
Or maybe I just want a pizza that doesn’t taste like cardboard slathered with tomato sauce and topped with school paste.