Novel Fare is dedicated to sharing the delicious and healthy recipes for foods found in excellent books. Additionally, I’m on a personal quest to find an acceptable vegan alternative to traditional cheese.
The Story Behind Novel Fare
While reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by the late-and-great Stieg Larsson, I often found myself thinking more about the food described in the story than the plot of the book itself. While trying to find a recipe for one of the dishes mentioned, I came across this Tumblr and realized I wasn’t alone.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized how food-centric a number of my favorite books were. From the tacos referenced in Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn and whimsical feasts of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series that I enjoyed throughout my childhood, to the novels by authors such as Camilla Läckberg and Liane Moriarty that I read today, food plays a considerable role. I believe that being able to enjoy the food referenced in a book while you read it enhances the overall experience.
My Quest for an Alternative Cheese
I love cheese and it’s a huge part of my life. I’m also a pescatarian, meaning fish is the only meat I eat and even that I eat sparingly. I used to pat myself on the back for this, thinking that my food choices weren’t contributing the the cruelty imposed on the animals raised on factory farms. If you’re a conscientious vegetarian or vegan, I hope you’re having a good, long laugh at my naiveté. If you, like me, were unaware of the full story behind how cheese is made, allow me to explain.
There’s no such thing as extra milk. Dairy animals—generally cows, goats, and sheep—produce milk when they have babies to feed and then only enough milk for that purpose. A one-pound block of cheese requires roughly one gallon of milk to make. Therefore, the milk is either used to feed the baby or make the cheese. So what happens to the baby? That’s where veal, lamb, and tender baby goat meat come from. Not to mention, for mom to keep producing, she has to be continually impregnated—not fun. Long story short, the whole time I thought I was being a great promoter of animal rights by only eating shellfish, drinking almond milk, and eating cheese—I was actually enthusiastically contributing to the veal industry, which is one of the primary reasons I became a pescatarian in the first place.
After learning this, I was disgusted with myself and vowed to become vegan…that lasted all of three months–did I mention that I love cheese? I don’t just mean the way it tastes, I love everything about it. I think it’s one of the most beautiful and comforting foods there is. I love it so much that I learned how to make it, which I also really enjoy doing. Giving up cheese was not only difficult, it was literally life-changing, and eventually I cracked like an egg.
As I said in my introduction, you only live once and you have to do what’s right by you. I love cheese and it’s a huge part of my life, but I also love animals and don’t want my enjoyment of a good cheese to contribute to their suffering. If I could find a vegan cheese alternative that I was able to enjoy even half as much as a good bleu or brie, then I could successfully give up traditional cheese and maybe even become a modified* vegan. I’ve tried a few recipes and they haven’t worked for me, but I’m eager to experiment with variants on cashew cheeses by brilliant bloggers, such as The Minimalist Baker—so here we are.
*Modified veganism isn’t really a thing, but I don’t think there’s a word for for someone who eats a plant-based diet except for shellfish, like clams and oysters, because they don’t have brains.