Pizza: My One Obstacle to the Pure Land of Veganism.

Via on Jun 3, 2010

Only The Mighty, Cheesy Pizza Stands Between Me and Culinary Moksha

I’ve been vegetarian for a couple of years now. I slowly let a vast array of meats fall away as I settled nicely into the very comfortable dairy and eggs only category (octo-lavo-something or other, right?). That was fine for a while. But alas, I now feel a tug toward the next step and find myself faced with the toughest food choice ever: Vegan or pizza?

I know what you’re thinking: Hey Coe, they have vegan cheese and vegan pizza now.

And there lies the potato starchy rub. You see, I love, love, love pizza. I’ve driven miles, hours even, to try great pizza. One of those long drives was to try a vegan pizza. Which is why I am now struggling so much with the final big step into culinary moksha. The vegan pizza, while decent, just wasn’t pizza-esque enough for me.

So now what? I’ve come too far with my diet to stop now. Can I go just a little bit further?

My Wisconsin upbringing weighs heavily against me for sure. The good old dairy state is a magical place, a land of giant burgers with scoops of butter thrown on top, juicy bratwurst, homemade ice cream, Cocoa Pebbles with half and half for breakfast, steaks that would make John Candy proud (ever see The Great Outdoors?) and truly amazing pizza.

I remember a conversation I had with a Vegan friend when I was in my mid-twenties. “You should stop eating meat,” she preached. “Yeah, like that’s going to happen,” I responded with as much sarcasm as I could muster. But, that was where I was then. At that point in my life I couldn’t fathom forgoing the burger or saying good bye to the mighty bratwurst.

Then something interesting happened: I started meditating and doing yoga.

I often say that yoga has changed my thinking far more than it could ever change my body. With each labored posture in the primary series of my Ashtanga practice something burned away inside. I read somewhere that one shouldn’t worry about becoming a vegetarian or giving up meat. As we grow in our practice, as we become more aware, meat will give itself up. That same quote sadly said nothing about pizza.

Which is why I now find myself standing before a giant wall made of mozzarella. It’s blocking me on all sides from the Pure Land of Veganism and I don’t know if I can or even want to get out. A little voice—it sounds like Thich Nhat Hanh’s—is telling me to let go of the cheese, to stop clinging to the idea of pizza. But I’m not sure if I’m ready.

Will I ever be?

I didn’t think I was ready to give up burgers and that came pretty easily. So why is pizza so difficult? That damn, cheesy, saucy, yummy pizza. It is my Mara and it is unbelievably tempting.

About Coe Douglas

Coe Douglas is a recovering ad agency creative director. He currently works as a freelance writer, brand strategist and occasional music video director. Whenever possible he tries to use his creative powers for good. This fall he’ll be returning to school to immerse himself in books and journals with the intention of emerging after a few years with a graduate degree in psychology. Coe teaches yoga and thinks everyone should meditate and go veggie. He blogs and lives online at coedouglas.com.

3,557 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use super-secure PayPal - but don't worry - you don't need an account with PayPal.)

45 Responses to “Pizza: My One Obstacle to the Pure Land of Veganism.”

  1. Timmy Mac says:

    Daiya, baby. It's the Good Stuff you're looking for.

  2. Coe Douglas coedouglas says:

    You mean there's hope? Hurray. I'll have to track some Daiya down. Thanks for the tip.

  3. [...] got a new post over at Elephant Journal about my struggle with giving up pizza. It’s my one big, cheesy, saucy, yummy hurdle on the [...]

  4. pauloone says:

    Sorry, I will never give up real cheese and eggs. I live for pizza! Some people just will never be Vegans no matter how much the Vegans bash them for it.

  5. Blake Wilson blake says:

    Between two foods, I always choose the one I can make. Cheese? No problem. Vegan cheese? I have no clue but I'm guessing it takes a degree in chemistry.

    • Matthew says:

      This is a bit ignorant friend. A lot of delicious vegan cheese substitutes can be made from simple ingredients like cashews or nutritional yeast.

  6. elaine says:

    Depending on your reasons for thinking of veganism (health or environment or animal rights), it might be OK — even ethically justifiable — to be “mostly” vegan and think of real cheese as the once-in-a-blue-moon treat. If you’re eating it all the time, arguably you’re mightily contributing to the harsh dairy industry and the ugly realities of factory farming. If real cheese pizza is a once-every-three-months kind of thing? I think you could live with yourself.

    ….Just my two cents’ worth.

  7. Christy Morgan Christy says:

    Daiya is the bomb but even it is just pure fat. If you think of what cheese actually is and all the crappy stuff it does to our bodies that might help. Cheese is always the last thing to go for vegans. We become addicted to it, literally. It isn’t just psychological! A good book is by Dr. Neal Barnard “Breaking The Food Seduction”.

    Sure pizza (and burgers) tastes awesome, but are we going to let our tastebuds rule our lives and prevent us from having optimal health?

  8. Coe Douglas Coe says:

    Well said, everyone. The post was commentary on my ongoing back and forth on this. I take what I eat seriously and try to stay with clean, natural, non-processed whole foods.

    So, to Elaine’s point, it’s a once-in-a-blue-moon kind of thing, but I am always amused by my cravings. ( Side note: I also crave Indian food)

    Hey, Christy. Good points. I hope we don’t let our taste buds rule our lives. But far too often we do. This is reflected in our national obesity epidemic.

    To me it comes back to awareness. I’m always shocked at how unaware people are about what they put in their bodies.

  9. Peter Keller says:

    Cheese is physically addictive; it’s the fault of casein, which has those properties that makes it hard for people to give up. Cheese was one of the last hold-outs for me. Then I learned about the systematic abuses that are considered “standard agricultural practices,” and I decided that it just wasn’t right for me to put individuals through such misery just so I can have a taste of something.

    When I turned vegan, admittedly, there really were no good cheese substitutes. I just sucked it up and tolerated it though, because I kept in mind what went behind closed doors. Even “organic” cheese has a whole host of problems with regard to how animals are used.

    But now, we’ve turned a corner, and it is called Daiya. It’s the one vegan “cheese” that does everything cheese eaters wanted; it melts perfectly, it’s stretchy when it is, and it tastes enough like animal cheese that it fools people. And now, due to the success of Daiya, Teese has been reformulated to be more melty and stretchy.

    And if you can find it, Scheese (from Scotland) has a line of hard vegan cheeses that are more gourmet style, including Sharp Cheddar, Gouda, and Blue.

    It seems lately in the past couple years there’s been an explosion in really awesome vegan foods to dispel the notion that vegans are missing out. So really, you don’t need to use and kill animals for tasty food anymore. Hell, I’ve seen vegan caviar and vegan haggis!

    • Coe Douglas coe douglas says:

      Veggie Haggis? Wow. Peter, thanks for the information. I agree 100% regarding the animal cruelty issue. The entire industrial food system is brutal and broken.

      I really appreciate the insights via the comments. I'm trying to track down Daiya after reading about it here. Plus, I love to cook and think Vegan cooking is really exciting. Especially when I come across products like Field Roast and now Daiya.

  10. Gary Smith Gary Smith says:

    Your spiritual practice has brought you to the place of an awareness of your food choices. You have become aware that eating the flesh of animals causes immense suffering (to both the animals and yourself) and is no longer necessary for the spiritual path that you are on. It does not align with your values and who you are. And now you are moving to the place where you realize that the desire for cheese is really no different than meat, in that immense cruelty (some might say more cruelty) goes into the process of creating cheese. Your practice calls for you to abstain from that cruelty. My practice called for the same thing and it gnawed at me until I let go of the idea that animals were here for me to use. Once I let go of that desire, it became clear that I could live my spiritual values and not just talk about them.

    I wrote a blog piece on the Mercy For Animals investigation of Conklin Dairy last week for Elephant. Please keep in mind that what was caught on tape happens to some degree in all animal food production. It is the nature of the beast.
    http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/05/conklin-da

    • Coe Douglas coe douglas says:

      Hey, Gary. Thank you and you're right. The Conklin piece you wrote was enlightening. The video really hard to watch. I couldn't get through it.

  11. Marilyin says:

    don't know where you live Coe but ZPizza has transformed the vegan pizza. Order the Berkely Veggie (thinly sliced red peppers, veggie crumbles, onions, Daiya cheese) with extra cheese and you might find that you love it! Good luck with your journey and thank you for your honesty. I've been vegan since July 2001 but have to admit that sometimes when I see my friends eating a cheesy pizza I still drool. ;-)

  12. Kate S
    That cheese, a product with which an unbelievable amount of unnecessary cruelty exists…dairy cows used for a few years then slaughtered. Their babies taken away from them breaking their mother/baby family bonds. I find it sad that people set their goals based on what they "can't" do. I "can't give up cheese because I love it so much." Wouldn't it be wonderful to turn that into "I CAN do this because I see the good in it" and so forth.

    Gary Smith
    Your spiritual practice has brought you to the place of an awareness of your food choices. You have become aware that eating the flesh of animals causes immense suffering (to both the animals and yourself) and is no longer necessary for the spiritual path that you are on. It does not align with your values and who you are. And now you are moving to… See More the place where you realize that the desire for cheese is really no different than meat, in that immense cruelty (some might say more cruelty) goes into the process of creating cheese. Your practice calls for you to abstain from that cruelty. My practice called for the same thing and it gnawed at me until I let go of the idea that animals were here for me to use. Once I let go of that desire, it became clear that I could live my spiritual values and not just talk about them.

    I wrote a blog piece on the Mercy For Animals investigation of Conklin Dairy last week for Elephant. Please keep in mind that what was caught on tape happens to some degree in all animal food production. It is the nature of the beast. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/05/conklin-da

    Sally Barney
    are there any sources of cruelty-free cheese?

    Ashley C
    Soya and Daiya are great replacements. Can't even tell the difference.

    Lisa T. B
    Daiya rocks and is becoming widely available in pizza shops.

    Maria DeSimone
    omg gary i could not get pass the first three seconds of that clip you attached…..my stomach is turning! grateful for my diet decisions….i'm simply horrified by the way humans treat animals!

  13. ARCreated says:

    I used to love cheese…no seriously adored it…and the stinkier stronger the cheese the better…but when I said "I'll just try no dairy for 30 days and see what happens…"well you know what happened…I FELT better and I have never ever gone back…You may laugh but I LOVE cheesesless pizza :) I won't do most "fake" stuff as there is too much soy and supposedly too much of the nutritional yeast is bad for my dosha…whatever I just one time missing feeling like part of the pizza party gang (it had been nearly 6 months since i had a pizza) I ordered on cheeseless…added pineapple for a little more moisture and voila Pizza was once again on the shopping list. mmmmm….I think I have some left overs in the frig…onion green pepper black olive spinach mushroom and pineapple…delish

  14. ARCreated says:

    PS EAT LESS SOY!!!!!!!!!

  15. I had the “I could be a vegetarian except for cheeseburgers and pizza” prroblem in my twenties”. Now I could never eat meat again, however, now and again,I eat cheese. My rationalization,”no one has to die”. I buy cheese at our local farmers market from farmers who treat their animals decently, grow oranic vegetables and have cage free chickens (almost bought a goat yesterday but after checking with our HOA found that this was not a good idea). Anyway,maybe I will give up cheese like I gave up hamburers and pepperoni. Who knows?

    • -=jess says:

      I was quite a cheese addict for a long time, so I certainly empathize with you! However, veal is only possible because of the dairy industry, so many beings do die because of our consumption of cheese. Also,I would recommend slightly altering the attempt to rationalize eating cheese to "no one has to suffer." That way, it will become quite clear that this is not the case. I was very recently at the same point you are and I understand that everyone moves toward a compassionate diet at different paces, but I just thought I'd throw that in there to help you along. Hope that's ok!

  16. Doug says:

    Agree on Daiya…and get it shipped from Pangea if you don’t see it at Whole Foods.

    I was also a pizza junkie…tool me a long time to walk away from it. Someone above nailed it…once I made the shift from what do *I* love to eat to wow, other living beings experience horrible suffering in order to get that pizza on my table, well, I had an easier time making the change. I really could give up cheese and I haven’t had it for over a year now.

    Hope my experience is a helpful perspective…good luck in whatever you choose!

  17. Candice Garrett Candice says:

    I know there are so many ways to look at this, and all valid. But how about some compassion for yourself? I mean, maybe hang out here a while and either you give up pizza or you don't….wait and see. Who cares if you fit neatly inside the vegan box, many of us don't. My husband pointed this out to me once when I was feeling mostly vegetarian, then mostly vegan, and I couldn't give up on (for instance, pizza!) . He said, "who cares? There's no vegan police in this house, at least not that I know of….".
    And some people have made other great points about samskaras and veganism and spiritual road blocks and those are all really, really great points. So I guess you go with whatever speaks loudest to you. In the end we only do what we can, make our best choices with what we're given.

  18. Andrea says:

    I can relate sooo much to that! I have been a vegetarian for just a month, and i am sure im not tempted by any kind of meat, not ever, but i cant resist to a steamy slice of a veggie pizza with melted cheese, so hot and great it bubbles!

  19. Ashley says:

    For my vegan except for cheese friends who WANT to give up dairy but have difficulty giving it up because of the opiate/childhood memories/cultural-familial ties they have with it, I tell them to think about two words when they want cheese:

    cow puss.

    and if that isn't enough… coagulated cow puss.

    even more effective is the visual, picture yourself sucking out of a cow teat. not natural. not healthy. baby cows only.

    Why isn't there human milk cheese? THAT is the question.

    +1 on the daiya. or cheeseless pizza.

  20. Ashley says:

    lol. i meant pus. now cow puss. but now you're thinking even grosser, right?

  21. [...] been mostly vegan for almost 2 years now with a few hiccups ( See my Elephant Journal article on pizza [...]

  22. [...] Elephant Journal – C. Douglas – Blogger: Coe Douglas [...]

  23. Darcy says:

    You don't have to give up pizza. I make a vegan pizza with lots of veggies, sauce, and soy cheese. It is incredibly good totally vegan!!

  24. Stacey Reynolds says:

    At one time I also felt this battle waging inside me, but now that I feel the connection between me eating cheese and me putting a calf through 4 months of hell I have found that I no longer desire the taste of cheese and in fact the thought of it disgusts me. I can't stand the thought of my complicity with the veal industry and the suffering of those poor little ones. Good luck to you with your own inner battle.

  25. [...] I know you’ve been hearing about gluten lately and for some of you it makes you want to go eat a slice of pizza, but that urge could very well be a sign that it’s definitely a good idea to try this experiment. [...]

  26. elephantjournal says:

    #
    Kathy Custren Mushroom pizza…veggie pizza…don't need any meat. ;) Blessings!

    #
    Kirsten Schreiber Diaya cheese is the answer. It leads to vegan pizza Moksha.

  27. [...] Whatever you think. Why should I go vegan? Why shouldn’t I? What’s a good (truly) vegan ice cream? What’s a good vegan cheese (I’ve been buying almond for some time, and am impressed—they work for nachos! Not so sure about pizza). [...]

  28. Kristie says:

    three brothers pizzeria rockville center ny

  29. [...] I lost a lot of things. I was already vegetarian, but going vegan lost me good cheese, it lost me pizza delivery, it lost me yummy butter on warm muffins. [...]

  30. SwamiMike says:

    I don't really care for vegan cheeses, even Daiya. But I wasn't a cheese person even before I went vegan, when i was a kid I used to take all of the toppings off and just eat the crust and sauce. A cheese-less veg pizza is heaven to me.

  31. Jenna says:

    I’d say eff it and call yourself a pizzatarian. I doubt it’s worth the stress.
    Or don’t bother faking it because you can’t fake cheese. I’ve tried. Make a cauliflower crust pizza and add hummus and veggies. No need for fakery and crazy delicious.

  32. perrine says:

    How about giving up dairy altogether but allowing yourself a real pizza everynow and again. You’ll no longer obsess about it, will get to see how you feel with no dairy in your system and how do you after you have the pizza… And that’s when the craving might go away for good…

  33. ShawnaN says:

    I've found a really great vegan calzone recipe that I use regularly when I need to get my 'pizza fix'! The sauce is great because it doesn't force you to use any processed faux cheese ingredients. Make a double batch and freeze them for busy meal times! http://www.maplespice.com/2010/03/roasted-vegetab

Leave a Reply