Discovering There is Life After (Dairy-based) Cheese
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge
Yes, you can absolutely live without cheese, and nobody could have been more surprised by that than me! Before I went vegan, it loomed on my path, blocking my movement forward, a life without cheese. Could I voluntarily give up something I loved so much? I didn’t even eat that much of it, or so I thought.
It was one of the original motivators behind putting a time limit on being vegan, my ‘vegan experiment’. The anxiety around making a complete commitment was too overwhelming. I’m not sure now what I was even clinging to, but at the time I couldn’t psychologically walk away from foods like cheese forever. However, I could stop eating them for a designated period of time. So, I did.
Now, my earlier perspective seems absurd and insufferably privileged. Hundreds of millions of people around the world can barely get enough food to survive, and here was I angsting over food choices. Now, I can’t even look at cheese and see food. The system required to produce dairy is so incredibly cruel. If I think about eating cheese today I start to feel anxious; flooded with sadness and disgust for all the oblivious cruelty I participated in for decades. Massive numbers of people in other places live without cheese – they don’t even know they are living without cheese.
Day 13 breaks down the ol’ life without cheese problem. Cheese isn’t a roadblock to veganism, it’s a mirage. For some, it’s a deep seated emotional need for comfort that becomes fixated on cheese – the subconscious nostalgia for childhood or other life events and rituals that comfort us, made us feel safe or bring us enjoyment. Food is one of those things we scour into our personal and collective sense of identity with emotion and culture. To say, “we are what we eat”, is much more than a material statement.
New Zealanders are one of the world’s highest dairy consumers and producers. For an economy our size, we supply the world with a staggering amount of milk. It accounts for around a third of our export earnings. Ironically, we consume less dairy now than we did when I was growing up, but we produce a lot more, primarily for Australia and China.
For those who feel that it’s not the emotional, cultural or ritualistic attachment to consuming cheese that’s the issue, but the taste, Colleen suggests that they really think about what matters more – a few moments of mouth pleasure or your reason for going vegan.
A good portion of the chapter is taken up with the practical side of a life without cheese. Because what do you do, especially in the beginning, if you have a craving for cheese, you’re feeling isolated from a family ritural, you want to feel comforted, or are just plain missing it on your pasta?
“Consider the common custom of sprinkling Parmesan cheese onto pasta. What we really get out of that is the satisfaction of salt and fat. With that in mind, try roasting some pine nuts or walnuts, along with some salt, pulse them in a food processor, and sprinkle them on your pasta instead.”
Colleen Patrick-Gaudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge
Day 13 also provides a comprehensive list of vegan cheeses that are sold commercially in the US, but these are no use to me. To be honest, the one expensive vegan cheese I did try – not a fan.