Friday, October 14, 2011


When we kids out parents would let us chose our birthday dinner. I always chose pizza. Cheese was one of my favourite things in the whole world. When I became vegetarian it formed a massive part of my diet. I became vegetarian in the 80s in Auckland. If I wanted to buy tofu I had to take a bus into town and go to a health food shop, where they would fish it out of a bucket filled with water. I remember the guy in the shop saying, 'It tastes really good with a light layer of mould on it.' I never tried that. It has taken years for me to like tofu but cheese! Oh, boy. During the 80s a book came out written by Alison Holst and he son called Meals Without Meat. I still have a copy and I always joke with Brent about it being the 'Meals With Cheese' book. For me cheese was the vegetarian default.

Despite my love affair with cheese it caused me a lot of problems. I suffered really badly from migraines as a kid and when I didn't eat histamine-rich food: chocolate, cheese - my migraines stayed away. I also have this memory of always having a sore stomach and feeling slightly ill. But there was no way I could imagine giving up cheese. Then I read an article and it kind of changed my life. I think my friend Sarah gave it to me and it was called something like 'The Sexual Politics of Eating Meat'. I found this on Amazon and maybe it was a chapter from this book. Anyway, it changed the way I looked at dairy and eggs forever. In those days we had quite a few vegan friends, there wa sa bit of animal rights action going on and a few of our friends were straight-edge punks. I thought I'd avoided veganism, I felt okay about the dairy and egg industry and felt really good about being a vegetarian and then I read this thing. It kept talking about our 'sister cows and hens' which at first I thought was dumb but then some how, as I read it, it made perfect sense. So at some stage I stopped eating animal products and the hardest to give up, the one I would look at and dream about and sniff at, was cheese. The main tastes that left my diet as I restricted it more and more were fat and salt and cheese just fits that bill perfectly. I missed it so much.

Someone, I think it was someone on a Vegan Freak podcast said, 'People shouldn't try vegan cheese for at least four years after going vegan.' And I reckon that is so true. I don't think vegan cheese tastes much like dairy cheese. I reckon it's true that the longer you can stay away from it after going vegan the better. I think I've pretty much forgotten what real cheese tastes like, so vegan cheese is great. I don't eat that much of it. For years, it was cost-restrictive, we just didn't have enough money to buy it but now we can probably afford it I'm sort of out of the habit of buying it. Toki isn't that keen on it and yeah, I feel like I can take it or leave it. It is nice every now and then sprnkled on nachos or on a pizza but yeah, strangely we just don't have it much any more. What I think might have happened is that I lost my love of real cheese at some stage. Real cheese smells really unappealing to me now. One of the things that first turned me vegetarian was I heard someone say that being vegetarian can change the way you think and yeah, I wonder if it changes the way you smell as well and your appetite?

What I much prefer to the commercial vegan cheeses are a few recipes I have which I makes at home. For instance, we make like a vegan parmessan out of toasted sesame seeds, salt and nutritional yeast. I whizz all the ingredients up in out bullet food processor and it is really nice sprinkled on italian style lentils and pasta. I also make this really strange cashew nut erm spread maybe? It's got red capiscum, cashews, nutritional yeast, miso, tahini and some other stuff in it and again I whizz all the ingredients up and it's done. It's great for dollapping onto pizza and cooks really nicely. I also have a great recipe for macaroni-no-cheese which makes a sauce with pumpkin, nutritional yeast (seeing the pattern) and miso. It is a really nice winter meal with crusty bread. Yeah, I think most of these recipes come from a book by John Robbins called May all be Fed: A diet for a new world. I find John Robbins really interesting. He's been writing about veganism for a long time and with a passion and certainty that I find really admirable. His books are really interesting and May all be Fed has some great recipes in it.

Image: Vegan Cheese (Portland, Oregon) CC licensed by Flickr user Todd Mecklem Thank you Todd for CC licensing this picture.

PS: I'm pretty sure every vegan in the world wants to live in Portland, Oregon teehee. I do anyway.


  1. Wow, you just made me remember Bru-fax yeast flakes. My mum used to buy it in the 70's and you never see it these days. I liked it in sandwiches, mmm. She also used to make us eat a tsp of malt extract once a week. Lol, yay the 70s!

  2. Really really enjoyed this post. 'It tastes really good with a light layer of mould on it' ... I get annoyed with the food industry in so many ways but by god, I'm made we've made progress in the tofu arena!
    I've often considered making the leap from lacto-ovo vegetarian to vegan. The one thing stopping me, of course, is the cheese. THE CHEESE! I'm shackled to the cheese demon. Unlike all the other dairy-type goods you can get pretty-good-if-not-better vegan equivalents, vegan cheese will never touch dairy cheese. So it was very interesting to read that you sort of lost your love for cheese at some stage. Do you ever get 'ghosts' of it, though? I seem to have a vivid food memory - I'm SURE I can remember meat pies I ate when I was four - so I fear I'd have to wait a lifetime before I lost my cheese fanaticism for good.
    I love the sound of the vegan parmesan and the cashew nut butter guff.