‘I could never give up cheese’ – how many times have you heard someone tell you this once they find out that you are vegan? I always find it awkward and I never know what to say to that, to be honest. I get it, cheese IS delicious and addictive (here is Dr Neil Barnard’s explanation). I myself was a prolific cheese eater before I decided to go vegan five years ago, so I understand loving to eat cheese very much (it didn’t help that we used to live in Greece at the time and feta was our daily staple), but once you learn how much animal cruelty is involved in making dairy cheese, no emphatic, animal-loving person can ignore that, surely!
It wasn’t until I made the emotional connection that my cheese habit fuels unspeakable animal suffering – I don’t think anyone could argue that being forcibly impregnated on repeat until your body can take no more and having your child taken away from you each time so that humans (instead of their newborn calf) can take your milk is humane – gave me the clarity and resolve I needed to quit cheese. I wanted to not be part of this! It wasn’t easy to begin with, but to my great astonishment, after about a month or so my cheese cravings went away completely. My palate rewired itself.
Instead of feeling that I am missing out, I focused on new things I can have that I never would have bothered finding out about had I not been vegan and making cheese out of cashews (and other fatty nuts) was one of these things that blew my mind and I came to love. It hits your fat receptors, gives dishes a creamy element that is hard to get any other way with plants and can have a beautiful, satisfying umami flavour if tackled right. On top of that, it’s better for you too! Dairy promotes inflammation in the body and contrary to what the milk industry wants you to believe – leads to brittle bones (see NOTES for reliable information sources on this subject).
So if you are a newbie vegan cheese maker, vegan ricotta-type cheese is the easiest thing to make. All you need is a blender (it’s not necessary to use a high-end one by the way, I use quite a basic and old Kenwood with great results), some soaked cashews, plant milk (or water!!), salt and either lemon juice or a vegan probiotic capsule to give cheese its typical tangy, funky taste. Once you are comfortable with the basics, you can jazz things up with garlic, miso paste, fresh herbs, sun-dried tomatoes and so many other options!
I don’t eat vegan cheese often as I am simply out of the habit (it’s incredible how many things we do just because they are familiar, right), but I do make this cheese on a monthly basis and I love using it as a filling, dollop it on top of pasta, risotto, salads, spread it on bread or crackers – anything that takes your fancy. Unless you are a seasoned vegan and are already a vegan cheese wizard, please give this recipe a go and give cows a break. They have an incredible bond with their children, just like humans do with theirs, and they don’t deserve the pain we routinely inflict on them simply because ‘we could never give up cheese’.
Switch for good – a great podcast hosted by an Olympic medalist Dotsie Bausch and Baywatch actress and certified health coach Alexandra Paul about the issues with dairy consumption.
Is milk good for our bones – great video by Dr Greger from NutritionFacts.org
A whole host of videos explaining negative effects of dairy on human health by Dr Greger from NutritionFacts.org