Yes, Cheese…Sorry, Please

We are grateful for Daiya.

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There are only two things this particular vegan misses: Bacon and cheese (even better if they’re together in an broiled open-top sandwich). It’s worth noting my arteries don’t agree; they’re happy the way things are.

Vegan bacon? That’s a nope. Sure, there are vegan “bacons,” but as tasty as they can be, they’re nothing at all like that greasy, salty, diaphanous, crunchy, delicious evil non-vegans eat. (Feel free to correct me if you know otherwise.)

Cheese, though, is a far bigger deal to me, and for years we missed it painfully. We’d stare agape commercials for Little Caesars and such and marvel how far “pizza technology” (Doc’s term) has come since we’ve been gone. “There’s even cheese inside the pizza now!”

homer_drool
make and share lists

But after years of torture as one vegan cheese after another disappointed us by not melting, tasting nasty, or quietly containing casein, a milk derivative, we discovered Daiya cheese.

Daiya-Cheddar-Shreds
Daiya

That bag above is the Big Kahuna for us. We love this stuff. Their mozzarella shreds, too, and their cheddar slices and blocks that SD and I like to nosh on. (Other Daiya varieties are less popular around here. Non-rubbery Swiss cheese with no holes—please.)

We use Daiya for yummy grilled cheeses, closed or open. SD is addicted to Doc’s killer quesadillas, with cheese browned in the skillet as punishment for oozing out of the sides of a tortilla. We make awesome mini-pizzas on flatbread, and pro pizzas with pro toppings when we take a bag or two of Daiya mozzarella to the local pizza shop where they’ll use it instead of dairy cheese. Our only real problem with Daiya is not just eating it all out of the bag as we prepare the above dishes. The stuff melts, taste great, and even browns. Aaah.

We like a couple of other vegan cheeses, too: Field Roast’s Chao slices and the Sheese line, but they’re not available where we live, so Daiya’s our palate-saving household staple.  It’s becoming available pretty much everywhere.

One note about that “ORIGINAL” label on the Daiya bag above and the lesson it holds for other food manufacturers: Stop “improving” products that people like. Late last year, Daiya “refreshed” their entire line with a new formula that, well, ruined the shreds for a lot of people. Props to the company for responding with a return to the old recipe. Hence “ORIGINAL.”

I’m Moving This Chart’s Clip to Red

SD’s just wrapping up kindergarten and we have come to truly hate the so-called clip-chart system her elementary school uses. Maybe you know this system, introduced in 2009 by a company called New Management as “A Simple Discipline Strategy for Promoting Positive Behavior.” It’s unfortunately been adopted by schools across the country.

Why do we hate it? It passes judgement on our 5-year-old every single day. She doesn’t need to be subjected to such a thing; who would?

If you don’t know, the system works like this. There’s a chart with different colors that represent…well, it depends on the school system or teacher. In the original positive-skewing concept, there are four colors.

Original-Clip-Chart

Each kid’s behavior is ranked for the day using a clip the teacher moves to the appropriate color on the chart, or up and down a string in front of a color. The child colors the day correspondingly on a take-home calendar a parent has to initial and return to school.

Note that all of the colors signify a positive behavior, which is nice and reinforcing, and I can see why someone thought the system was a constructive idea.

Too bad this has nothing to do with the colors SD’s teacher is arbitrarily assigning. Here are her kindergarten’s clip chart rankings:

Our-Color-Chart

Note that this way, three colors are positive, one is, “well, you’re here,” and three are negative judgements. (“Teacher’s Choice,” according to SD, means you put your head down on the desk instead of going out for recess.)

Every child starts the day on green. In this entire school year, SD has never gotten to pink. Not once. A couple of purples. A few blues, lots of yellows, a few oranges, a couple of reds. Mostly greens.

So this teacher is saying that on not one single day all year has SD’s behavior been outstanding? This is not possible. Her grades—such as they are in kindergarten—are good, the teacher says she’s among her best readers, and she’s a vibrant little human. Not one day?

Over the holiday break, SD told my wife that she didn’t like herself. At 5. Because of the clip chart. We immediately went to see the teacher who said she didn’t realize SD “was the kind of child who responds to positive reinforcement.” What? Doesn’t everyone? She deigned to lay several purples on SD for a couple of weeks, and then slowly back to green and sub-green.

A national backlash is brewing over the clip chart, as SD’s teacher is not alone in using it as a soul-crushing, punitive tools for little kids. Some are restoring its original reinforcing intent and some educators are banishing it altogether from their classrooms.

Wish our school’s teachers would. We’ve told SD to pay no attention to the stupid colors.

Dole Whipped

Going to Disney World seems to just be what you have to do. Never mind the money.

Sooner or later, 99.9% of parents seem do this for their kids, regardless of how much your family has bought into the whole princess thing or not. (We have not.) I think my poor First Daughter (FD) is honestly the last kid her age in the UP to get there, and she’s always been very gracious about it. Which made us feel even more like we had to do this—and since she’s 13 now we wondered if the window was closing. Second Daughter (SD) is 5, and she has no idea what it’s all about. It’s just another fun experience.

Anyway, I went into this thing with my skepticism on 11, but shortly after we booked our trip and hit the credit cards, we received our MagicBands™—with each one actually printed with one of our names. Yipes. Does Disney do this for all of the gazillion MagicBands people use? Yes, yes, they do. It was just the first indication that maybe we were going to get our money’s worth.

The second big clue for me was the utterly gonzo, new-style Mickey Mouse cartoons they showed on the shuttle bus. I have never had any patience for lame old MM. No personality, and never amusing in the least. But these new cutting-edge toonz? They. Are. Hilarious and awesome. What’s happened to them over at Disney?

Our second morning we had breakfast with Stitch (SD had been afraid he’d steal her breakfast) and learned about their Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles being available in vegan form, AKA, the non-gluten version. Wow. Okay, this is gonna work out fine.

So anyway, and the reason for this post, we checked out Dole Whip, first in Adventure Land (twice) and then in Epcot. Over the course of 24 hours, we bought the stuff three times, in larger and larger portions. It is amazing. Most sources say it’s vegan, and allegedly it’s just frozen pineapple pureed to perfection, but, boy howdy is it good. It’s only available at theme parks, apparently, so if you want it in the real world, you have to make it. Or try, anyway.

We found a plausible recipe on  the internet, and I opened up the frozen bag of Dole pineapple chunks and set to work, trying to coax our standard blender into doing the deed. Adding water in a stream, as per recipe, resulted in nobody-knows-but-me how many little bits of pineapple are now forever stuck to the kitchen ceiling. As everyone else finished dinner, I ran a nerve-wracking race, trying to generate Dole whip before I caught the inevitable bouquet of burning blender motor. It wasn’t bad in the end—a bit stringy—though next time I’d use pineapple juice instead of water to make it sweeter.

We’re just going to have to go back to Disneyworld, dammit.