Nutritional Yeast by Rob Branch-Dasch
You, my dear friend, are part of an extraordinarily cool little band of radicals. You live in Portland (narrow portion of the population), you shop at a cooperative grocery (narrower), you even read its blog (narrower still), and you’re so unwaveringly devoted that you even clicked an article with the dubious title “Nutritional Yeast.”
Let’s be honest: the phrase “nutritional yeast” elicits about as much cheer as the phrase “therapeutic footwear.” Nutritional yeast is another in that long list of foods with unfortunate names, like mung beans, that sound terrible but actually taste really good. Lovers will never whisper nutritional yeast into each other’s ears; puppies will never name their humans nutritional yeast; and espionage films will never include a thrilling chase scene featuring a briefcase filled with nutritional yeast.
Despite all this, be thankful for that descriptive phrase. If we didn’t have nutritional yeast we’d be forced to use the name on its birth certificate, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. It’s the sort of name you might give to a highly educated old foreign man with a long white beard, not to a bouncing baby yeast. It’s a classy name in an ancient Mediterranean sort of way, but it doesn’t exactly slip off the tongue, does it? Because the human species is filled with individuals who feel they must assign nicknames to absolutely everything, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, AKA nutritional yeast, is also sometimes known as “Nooch.” We considered reaching out to Nooch’s parents for their opinion of this nickname, but because yeasts are known to be more than 100 million years old we strongly suspect Mr. and Mrs. Cerevisiae are unfamiliar with e-mail.
We do know that Mr. and Mrs. Cerevisiae came from a very big family. There are more than 1,500 species of yeast, so young Nooch has plenty of cousins, such as the many different weird and wonderful yeasts enjoyed by Portland’s brewers, winemakers, distillers, and bakers. Similarly to his cousins, Nooch has a unique flavor that adds a special touch in the kitchen. And like most of our friends, Nooch is usually described as cheesy and nutty. But unlike most of our friends, Nooch can be eaten. And not only is he quite tasty, he’s also a complete protein.
Nooch has a secret, and if you promise not to tell anybody we’ll share it with you: he has dozens of twin brothers and sisters. Mr. and Mrs. Cerevisiae named them all Nutritional Yeast, but you can easily tell them apart because they’re not identical. To be fair, if there are dozens of them I suppose they’re not really twins then, are they? Is it more correctly a litter of yeasts? A school? In any case, there are many nutritional yeasts out there, and some are better performers than others. Alberta Cooperative Grocery is excited to carry Hummingbird Organic Nutritional Yeast in its bulk sction. You see, while most Nutritional Yeast is grown on genetically-modified sugar beets, Hummingbird’s is grown on organic soy, organic corn and organic wheat. Yes! Organic! The difference is obvious; the flavor is far richer, warmer, and cheesier than any of the many brands this author has sampled over the years.
Calling all Portland plant-based cheesemakers: the Nooch in Alberta Coop’s bulk section will be amazing in your homemade Pepper Jack, Swiss, Smoked Gouda, Dill Havarti, and more. And to you who blasts your own popcorn at home: Nooch, garlic powder, and sea salt are practically guaranteed to become your go-to topping combination. Nooch is also great sprinkled onto salads or into soups, and especially when tossed liberally into stir fries and tofu scrambles. Pro Tip: just like all that vibrant ginger and basil you rely on, you’ll find Nooch’s wonderfully vibrant flavor decreases the longer it is exposed to heat. This means it’s best to add your Nooch just before taking a pan off the heat.
Nutritional Yeast is a pretty color, something like sweet corn or mustard or sunshine, and it comes in thin little flakes. This means an entire bag of the stuff weighs next to nothing, and will look really nice in that empty wine bottle on your counter. You kept the cork, right? Stop by the bulk section today and pick up a bag of Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, Nutritional Yeast, Nooch, or whatever affectionate little nickname you two prefer.
Note: The Coop carries two kinds of Nutritional Yeast. One is organic and from Hummingbird Wholesale and the other is GMO-free from Red Star!