Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sheese and Crackers

I became vegetarian for ethical reasons about 19 years ago. It was pretty easy, because I never really liked meat anyway. I remember sitting at the dining room table and being told I couldn't leave until I finished my pork chop or steak.  I decided to go vegan about 9 years ago, both for ethical reasons and because I wanted to see if removing dairy from my diet would help with my horrible allergy and sinus problems. (It did.) I won't lie, going vegan wasn't easy and I slipped up many times before veganism finally "took". I was completely addicted to cheese, and there weren't any dairy free cheeses on the market at all back then. 

The protein in cows' milk is called casein, and when digested, it  breaks down into substances called casomorphins. They are addictive and have an opioid effect, hence the "morphin" suffix on the word. Their function is probably to help form a positive bond between a mother cow and her baby calf. These casomorphins become highly concentrated in the production of cheese, which is why cheese is so much more addicting than other dairy products. Casein is also a carcinogen and an allergen and has a molecular structure close to that of gluten, so I think it's best to avoid it entirely. (There are many other reasons to avoid dairy products, and I will talk about them in other posts.) Strangely, quite a lot of diary-free cheeses contain casein, so always read labels. 

When "fake" cheeses started to come out, I was really excited and I tried them all. Some are kind of on the nasty side but others are pretty good. One of my favorites is Sheese, which is made in Scotland. When I get a hankering for it, I usually order it from and I order several types at a time to justify the shipping cost. It comes in both block and spread form. I've never tried to melt it, so I don't know how well it does in the oven, but it's really good sliced on rice crackers or shredded on salads. I was quite excited when I saw my friend Jenna's Facebook post stating that the local Whole Foods was now carrying Sheese a few days ago, and I ran right over and picked up some Blue Sheese and Strong Cheddar Sheese.

Sheese is mainly water, oil, soy and salt, so it hardly fits into the health food category. I always tell people to eat these sorts of foods in moderation. (The soy is non-gmo which is a good thing, because genetically modified foods can cause all sorts of health problems.) Sheese is a good every-once-in-a-while snack, and it's also a good appetizer to serve at parties. I had a few different flavors at my holiday party last year and it didn't last very long!

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