Dear Manhew Alice: I keep hearing rumors that the cheese on pizzas these days is imitation. This rumor is very disturbing. If it is true, what is the pale yellow glop that we are eating? — Steve D., Rancho Penasquitos
Hang on to your pepperoni, Steve. There’s every chance you’re eating what’s known in the industry (and perhaps in the galley of the starship Enterprise?) as cheese analog. It’s a shreddable, cuttable, meltable substance made of vegetable fats. No dairy content at all. Never even been in the same room with a cow. This ersatz mozzarella is the latest stage in the evolution of cheese, one of the most tinkered-with foods in the world. The trend, taken to its logical conclusion, should make cheese the first edible all-petroleum by-product. I’m sure Chevron is working on it as we speak. Far as I know, cheese analog is found on some commercial pizzas but has not yet insinuated itself into the dairy case.
The feds have many different labeling slots into which they place cheese and cheese-like substances. One that can be found in the dairy case is called (by law) imitation cheese food product. But this does (in fact must) contain some real cheese along with other fats and milk solids. Cheese analog is the breakthrough product that contains no trace of what its name says it is, warning us perhaps of the advent of ice cream analog made entirely from mineral oil and egg whites or roast beef analog from discarded shoes. Pizza evolved over the centuries from individual bread disks that served as edible plates. Shortly we may prefer to eat our plates than to try to choke down a pizza. Industry marches on.