the basics: soymilk & friends

Since I started this blog, a few friends have come out as veg-curious. Cookbooks are great for ideas, as are blogs (check out the links to your right), but before walking down that path you seem to find yourself walking down, you want the basics. The stuff-I’ll-eat-this-week basics. And dairy is one of the basics. The cheese thing is every man’s (or lady’s) personal battle, and there are obvious alternatives for butter (Earth Balance) and sour cream (Tofutti), but milk and cream are tough. So many subtle differences. And as this subject isn’t very photoworthy, I’ll be featuring magicians of the ’70s throughout.

When I was about 14 and couldn’t take the 2% milk the rest of my family drank, I tried ricemilk. And I hated it. It was gritty and weird. I hated it more than the 2% milk I couldn’t take anymore. So I drank skim milk. It was still dairy and I had no idea that by drinking milk I was killing little boy cows and asking girl cows to suffer. I was just going by taste, and it would be another 15 years or so before I tried another nondairy milk.

The Amazing Randi
The Amazing Randi

The first soy liquid I tried, maybe three or four years ago, was Silk vanilla creamer. We’d been using vanilla Coffeemate, and while there’s next to no dairy in it, there’s a ton of other stuff. I gave the Silk a try, and honestly, the first few cups were weird. But then it was normal. It didn’t have “that soy taste” to me anymore. And now I love it. I love it so much I wish it came in much larger containers, because even recycling, all these little cartons makes me feel wasteful.

Because of the creamer success, I picked up Silk soymilk and gave that a shot. There was no way I could down a glass of it—not that I’ve ever been a big glass-o-milk fan—but I could pour it on cereal and use it in recipes, no problem.

Uri Geller

I can now drink a glass of soymilk. I still don’t love it, but I can do it. I even have brand preference. Trader Joe’s low-fat vanilla soymilk (blue label) has a smooth and subtle taste. Whole Foods 365 Organic vanilla is what I buy when TJ’s is out or when I’m in a pinch. I think the flavor is too over the top, too artificial-tasting, so it’s strictly a cereal or smoothie milk. Their fat and protein contents are shoulder and shoulder and they’re both fortified with calcium and vitamins A and D, so I’m going for taste. They’re both a heck of a lot cheaper than Silk, which I’ll only buy if I’m at the big grocery store and am feeling lazy. For baking I use TJ’s organic unsweetened soymilk, which comes in the big shelf-stable juicebox, so I buy a few at a time and stick ’em in the cabinet. I think it tastes pretty gross, but it works in bread and pancakes just fine.

As for the other milks, I find most of them gritty. I’ll use ricemilk in my coffee if I’m out and that’s what they’ve got, but that’s about it. I still haven’t gotten over my dislike for it. Hempmilk is pretty damn yummy on its own, but it’s super expensive. And nutmilks are not allowed in the home on account of the guy who’s deathly allergic to them.

Doug Henning

Just over a year ago, I tried potatomilk. At the time I remember feeling duped because it wasn’t vegan…but in searching for it online I found DariFree, which does claim to be vegan. So there it is. It’s powdered and, from what I remember, pretty light-tasting. It is enriched and contains as much calcium as dairy milk. So I guess I’ll keep an eye out for it and give it another try.

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