The common misconception, as we all know by now, is that vegans don't get enough protein (where do you get your protein from- ugh!!!) So I suppose to non-vegans, the answer would be cheese so why not throw it on anything and everything whether it's healthy or junky. The biggest problem for me besides the obvious one is that rather than enhancing dishes, cheese takes away from the subtle nuances that plant-based ingredients have to offer. It's like taking fresh, innovative ingredients from nature and completely adulterating them. This cheese culture, if you will, seems to be getting stronger and we must band together from near and far to convince chefs from around the world that cheese is not needed on plant foods!!! In all fairness, I must say that I have encountered quite a few places both locally and during travel where chefs have been enlightened and do go that extra mile to accommodate vegan patrons far beyond a basic salad or quinoa bowl. Some even take the time to make substantial house-made vegan burgers but "shocker" they might slap a slice of real cheese on it or even worse...throw it on a non-vegan bun!
One trendy appetizer which falls victim to cheese invasion is avocado toast. From local coffee shops and bistros to chain restaurants, it seems they all have their own version of these delightful little morsels and if we're lucky, they consist of a slice of toasted French baguette with lightly mashed ripe avocado, basil or arugula, heirloom tomatoes and perhaps a drizzle of olive oil or balsamic glaze. But, don't be surprised if some random cheese is thrown on like feta or parmesan which only takes away from the sweet and creamy avocado. Kinda makes you think...what are they trying to hide? Most food servers are happy to leave the cheese off. This one local coffee shop owner who serves this item with mozzarella cheese on top recently told me that many customers ask him to leave the cheese off. When I asked him why he uses it in the first place, he couldn't even give me a reasonable explanation. That's because there is none!!!
By now we are all aware of quinoa its many benefits so it's no wonder we are starting to see quinoa bowls pop up on menus with lots of veggie toppings, including....you guessed it... CHEESE!!! Ugh!! At least it's not chicken (although there are plenty of those around)!!! How silly, when you think about it, when food preps create a beautiful bowl with bountiful veggies, fruit, nuts and legumes only to be corrupted by a pedestrian mainstream ingredient (this time it's from a goat) which adds zero nutritional value to an otherwise complete protein meal (quinoa alone contains all 9 amino acids). I give Wawa a lot of credit for preparing many different salads and bowls to go but unfortunately, the one I want has one ingredient too much. Same goes for the red quinoa bowl from Yard House with feta thrown in the mix. Oh the humanity!!!
Being vegan doesn't always mean always eating healthy. Sure, we are more evolved than most but we are still human and can enjoy a little splurge from time to time, especially if we are athletic or very active. By default, many junk foods just happen to be vegan like French fries and tater tots, that is, if they are cooked in a dedicated vegetable oil fryer. Truffle fries/tots are all the rage these days but wouldn't you know, they are typically topped with parmesan cheese shreds which personally, I think add absolutely nothing to the spuds!!! If you start with good ingredients like fresh potatoes topped with quality truffle oil, there's no need for cheese!!! Perhaps a sprinkle of chopped parsley and maybe a little roasted minced garlic is really all you need. I get it...truffle fries are a departure from the old cheese fries with processed Velveeta sauce but it sure would be nice to exclude cheese altogether! If one must have a dusting or sprinkling of a cheese-like substance to feel complete then luckily, Follow Your Heart makes vegan parmesan style shreds. For the love of fries around the world, let's all see if we can school the chefs to look into keeping this viable product on hand. I doubt anyone would know the difference!
As I wrap this baby up, I don't want readers to think that I'm bitter or hostile in any way. I believe my non-vegan counterparts (just about everyone in my life btw) and I can coexist peacefully. I suppose I'm simply frustrated that just when I think we have made some serious progress in our quest for society to adopt a more plant-based lifestyle, I feel that meat-eaters are here to stay. Fine... let them have their meat! But for goodness sake, just don't taint our glorious plant foods with animal products. In all fairness, many chefs have indeed come a long way in discovering new ways to prepare vegan dishes to appeal not just to vegans. However, they seem to hesitate in allowing themselves to coax the naturally occurring subtle nuances found in those treasured gems courtesy mother nature. As a group, we need to continue our work within the mainstream restaurant setting to ensure we have plenty of vegan options wherever we choose to dine. I dream of the day when I can simply glance at a menu filled with healthy choices without having to always scream on the inside...CHEESE LOUISE!!!