Many moons ago I lived in France, in the Catalan Pyrenees to be precise, and I was a die-hard cheese lover, actually, perhaps 'addict' would be closer to the truth. Never in a million years when I was living this life, even though I was a long time vegetarian at the time, could I have imagined giving up cheese.
Cheese was a massive part of my diet, my cooking, my snacking and my love! Show me an extremely ripe brie de meaux, a fruity comté, a funky goat's cheese, or a pungent roquefort and I would have drooled over all of them and bought as much as I could eat! My nickname many years later in the workplace was Wallace, after the friendly cheese loving inventor of the wallace & Gromit cartoons. That later merged into Gromit, then Grommers (you know who you are) but that's another delightful story!
Cheese was my thing; the one thing I thought I could never do without. Milk - meh! Never bothered and had long since substituted soy milk for cow's milk, there weren't as many nut milks available then, but cheese, I would have clung to my love of it as if my life would fail without it.
Fast forward ten years. Veganism is in my world, there are vegans around me! Weird, militant, unforgiving people who insist upon others sharing their view right? Wrong! Some were that yes, but then the mainstream culture means that meat eating is thrust upon us as the given norm without any question of challenging that holy grail of nutritional need "we're designed to eat meat" right? Wrong! We're programmed to eat it. We have long since lost our connection to the food we eat and where it comes from in the majority of places. Not everyone of course, but I'm referring to mainstream habits here. Many kids don't even know that ham comes from a pig or beef from a cow, they just think it comes from 'Asda/Walmart/supermarketofyourchoice.'
I'm running my juice bar, I'm questioning my choices, and this is having an impact on how I feel about what I serve. We always had high raw, high vegan offerings, but we'd clung onto milk and cheese for our non vegan customers....until I just couldn't buy it any longer after watching various documentaries, films like Earthlings, about where it all came from - who knew? I know I didn't! But once known or seen, can it ever really be ignored? My daughters had already gone vegan, one for the animals, and one for the planet - there are many reasons and routes into veganism and eating a plant based diet; these were theirs. They usually merge into one big reason further down the line. And then there's health; the realisation about how much disease is actually being created as a result of our dietary choices and the many problematic issues in the industries producing our food.
My friend Josephine Foxall-Dant refers to it as "the consumption of suffering", and when I first heard her use that term I felt it fitted perfectly with what I was feeling....how can I eat this stuff knowing that every time I do, I'm directly paying for an animal to suffer horrendously so that I can do that, and with so many alternative choices, how can that be ok?
So I began to understand my part in all of this, and I could no longer hide from my own ignorance or remain silent about what I felt, and at risk of becoming one of those "preachy vegans", I needed to share what I'd seen, and what I felt but do it in a way that feels less confrontational than others may choose to be. I get where that militancy comes from, I really do, I guess it's just not my way. I want to share this stuff with compassion and understanding of where others are on their own journeys, and so, in the meantime....back to my quest for an alternative to cheese - it had been both depressing, disappointing and at times downright funny!
There's so much really bad vegan cheese out there! Cheese that tasted of plastic, or vomit, or coconut and not much else. Cheese that tasted of chemical process, of old cardboard, or was just blander than bland, but mostly all bad. Then at a local vegan fair, I discovered a few pleasant alternatives, super expensive but ok...but I still wasn't quite there on my quest to find something I liked enough to want to put it on my crackers, to actually choose to do that without that sinking 'oh but it's just not cheese' feeling.
And then I heard of The Walnut Gatherer when a friend who knew my current obsession with chase found me a chaga & thyme cheese and bought me a round for my birthday this week, and its fair to say my life just improved exponentially with this discovery! Offering a range of exciting flavours, the camembert was the big test. It looks like camembert, it feels like camembert, and damn but it even tastes like some camembert's I've had! It's so good! I also bought the applewood smoked with walnut, and the turmeric and back pepper flavours, also super yum, and I'm hearing so much about the smoked garlic, that's next on my list! I'm so buying that this week for my birthday gift to myself!
Cheese I can eat without feeling guilty. Cheese I can enjoy without slightly sicking up in my mouth at the same time I eat it! Cheese that no living, sentient being has had to endure suffering or exploitation to produce. Cheese that I can sleep at night with after I've eaten it! Everyone says don't eat cheese before bed, you'll have bad dreams....not with this one you won't...it's guaranteed to be all happy, fluffy, bouncing, smiling creatures that visit my dreams now. The Vegan Cheese has landed! Arriba, Arriba!
CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
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