Mmmm… cheese. Turns out human’s love of cheese goes beyond its tangy creaminess. Cheese actually contains casomorphin, an opiate released during the digestion of casein, the protein in milk. Biologically, this makes total sense. All breast-milk contains these chemicals to encourage bonding between mother and child, and cows are no exception. In fact, cow’s milk contains significantly more casein than human’s milk. What’s more, during the production of cheese these proteins are highly concentrated. So yes, your cheese “addiction” may be just that – heroin in the form of a nice block of chedder.**
There a several vegan cheese options available in stores these days, most notably the tapioca-based Daiya. While it does make a mean pizza, I find something slightly off-putting about faux-cheese—it’s just so unidentifiable. I have attempted to make my own cheese sauces a few times before, culminating in a delicious butternut-squash based macaroni and cheese, but actually producing a homemade block of sliceable vegan cheese always seemed a little out of my league…. until now. My dad’s compulsive used bookstore browsing (talk about an addiction :-p) recently turned up The Real Food Daily Cookbook. This lovely book just so happens to contain a recipe for “Cashew Cheddar Cheese” and, owing to the large amount of agar (a flavorless seaweed that acts very much like jello) called-for, it sets firm, very much like a soft block of dairy cheese. While the flavor isn’t likely to fool any die-hard cheese addicts, its tang, fattiness and texture provide a very satisfying cheese alternative, made entirely from wholesome, identifiable ingredients.
To access the recipe, just click the link to the cookbook above, or better yet buy it at your local booksellers—it’s worth it! I’ve played around with the seasoning a bit. The best version yet omitted the onion powder and instead added an equal amount of powdered horseradish and a couple of tablespoons of Chalula hotsauce—delicious! To make up for the lack of addictive opiates in this cheese, I brilliantly thought that a little ground up coedine with make a handsome addition, but alas my wise boyfriend shot me down on this one. Still, couldn’t it be like a training-wheel cheese replacement for those trying to get off dairy cheese? I still think it’s brilliant, just don’t tell anyone you’ve added it. ;-p.
** If you are interested in learning more about the opiate effects of non-human dairy on our health, check out Chapter 4: Opiates on a Cracker: The Cheese Seduction in Dr. Neal Barnard’s book Breaking the Food Seduction (available to read online here). Chapter 3 of Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet also provides a good overview (read here). For more in depth information on the effect of casein on human health, T. Colin Campell’s The China Study is well worth a read. Heck, it’s worth a read if you’re human and eat food. Just read it!