01 January 2009

A Farewell to Cheese


Ah, my first blog entry of the new year. And one big New Years Resolution to report: I am now a vegan. I have been a vegetarian for years, but now I am taking that final step into veganhood.

For those of you unclear about the distinctions between all the different “isms” out there: Vegetarianism is eating no meat of any kind, or “nothing with a face” or “nothing that had a mother"; so no meat or fish of any kind. Vegetarians still eat milk, cheese, eggs and honey because they aren’t actual animals (of course if you believe that life begins at conception then you might take issue with the eggs). Veganism is not eating or in any other way consuming anything that had anything to do with animals. So not only no meat or fish, but also no dairy, eggs or honey. You will meet, of course, many people who claim to be vegetarians because they eat “hardly any” meat. I once knew one such “vegetarian” who regularly ordered pork pot stickers at her favorite Chinese restaurant ”because they taste so much better than the vegetable ones”. And yet she insisted to referring to herself as a vegetarian. A pork eating vegetarian. Also she was Jewish (!!). Just as an FYI, eating meat occasionally and yet considering yourself a vegetarian is the same as once in a while gnawing on human flesh and then claiming not to be a cannibal.


For years I would rationalize (as I think many vegetarians do) that the dairy industry is like a day job for a cow. I suppose I had a very cartoonish image of a cow waking up to an alarm clock, having a few slices of toast and some coffee then punching the time clock at the local dairy and going home again after a nice day being milked by handsome farm hands. I had completely airbrushed from this picture the fact that this “day job” also includes being made to produce up to 5 times their normal milk production, having their children forcibly removed from them (then kept immobile in a box and killed before they reach adulthood), and being killed and eaten once the contract on this particular “day job” expired. Consuming dairy products is still buying into a system that exploits, tortures and murders animals and I can no longer remain in denial about it.

I’ve “gone vegan” in the past, but it was always without making a proper transition to other foods and also when I was in weird vegan-hostile places; like the time I was working for a few weeks in Oklahoma and Texas. There, the word “Vegan” or even “Vegetarian” would inevitably illicit a sideways cock to the head and the word “Huh?” if not downright aggresssion.


Once at a restaurant in Texas I pleaded with the waitress for something anything without meat in it. She finally agreed to bring me a bowl of rice. When it arrived it was chock full of chunks of sausage. The waitress’s comeback? "That's not meat, that's pork." (????!!!!). Once I'd explained the intellectual hiccup in her reasoning she came back with, ”There’s just a little meat in it” - as if some poor pig had accidentally cut himself shaving while standing next to the rice vat at Big Tex’s Colon Cloggery. I ended up living the rest of that tour on a diet of beer and fruit juice while I gaped in awe at the overly large bovine appearance of all the heavy meat eaters around me. Women with wrist bones the size of Rugby players, I tell you. And all from all that good old American hormone-packed meat they were consuming in huge quantities three times a day. Yeuuuch.


But even after the Texas Trauma, I fell back into vegetarianism (as opposed to veganism) because of my love of cheese. That’s been the hardest thing to give up. But now with it being New Year’s and all I’m making a clean break. For the fist time I’m grateful to be in a country that has no concept of cheddar.

On that note, I will leave you with the recipe for a no-cheese “Cheeze Ball” (which I got off a fabulous vegan web site, as sourced below) which I served up to (non-vegan!) guests last night who absolutely loved it!



1/2 Cup Blanched, Slivered Almonds
1/2 Cup Dry Roasted Cashews
1/3 14oz Block Firm Tofu, Well Pressed
3 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast Flakes
1/2 Teaspoon Seasoned Salt
1 Teaspoon Sugar
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
1/2 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Teaspoon Light Vegan Butter
1 Teaspoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Table Mustard
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Tablespoon Grated Onion, Well Drained
1/4 Cup Sliced Almonds
Paprika to coat

Place almonds and cashews into a food processor until it’s ground up for about 2 minutes or until clumps start to form.

Place 1/3 of a block of tofu from a 14oz block. It’s important to use firm tofu. Silken or extra firm will not work. An average block of tofu is about 4.5 inches long, so measure 1.5 inches off. Drain tofu in a strainer by smashing and pressing firmly. Using a clean dish towel to soak up some of the water helps too. It’s important to get as much water as you can out.

Now add the tofu to the almond and cashew nut paste that’s already in the food processor along with the nutritional yeast flakes, seasoned salt, sugar, lemon juice, liquid smoke, paprika, vegan butter, olive oil, mustard, garlic powder, onion and blend about 2 minutes.

Spray a bowl and a square of plastic wrap with no stick spray. Pile mixture into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in fridge and Let this chill for at least 5 hours or overnight. It will get firm and can now be shaped into a ball and rolled in sliced almonds and paprika. If you lightly oil your hands it will keep it from sticking to your hands while you roll. Now it’s ready to be served with your favorite crackers.

source: MyVeganCookbook.com


Don said...

Last summer I ate a meal with this family at a "family style" place (food served to the table, no menu.)

It was tacos for lunch, and as stuff came out... tortillas, salsa, beans, guacamole, tomato chunks, etc etc, everyone in this other family started getting concerned looks on their faces, visibly antsy. Finally one of the kids gave voice to the concern.. "Isn't there any meat?"

IT was starting to get ugly.... like that pic of the lady in the flag shirt!

Finally the waiter showed up with a freaking bowl of crumbled ground beef.. the least interesting thing on the table by by almost anyone's standard. But that whole family gave a cheer and started smiling again.

It gave me some insight into that whole middle of the country red state thing epitomized by presidents who live own ranches.

Spotted Sparrow said...

Good luck with the new-ish diet. I'm one of those people that only eat meat occasionally, but don't worry, I don't claim to be vegetarian. ;)

Sharon said...

Part of your post reminded me of my recent scandalous experience at a local Brussels establishment (http://bxlsprout.blogspot.com/2008/12/vegetarian-in-brussels-one-act-play.html).

Good luck with veganism in Belgium! It's bad enough with my vegetarian restrictions; I imagine you're pretty well focused on salad and bread. If you find any veggie-friendly restos, I'd certainly love to hear about them!

Joni Dunlap said...

While at a conference in Nashville, I found it challenging to order vegetarian meals. I found a restaurant that had a salad bar and thought I would be set when I ordered the soup-n-salad special. I got up to the salad bar and beautifully displayed was several flavors of jello, cottage cheese, iceberg lettuce, and ranch dressing. Never before had I seen that many flavors of jello in one place. As a vegetarian, jello is off the list too. But, luckily, there was this beautiful display of fresh fruit. I grabbed an orange, apple, and banana and took them back to the table. The waitress promptly informed me that the fruit was not for sale...it was only decoration. I indicated that I'd be willing to pay a fair rate for the fruit. After 15 minutes of discussion with wait staff and the manager, I walked out with the fruit in hand. Sometimes vegetarians have to work hard for a good meal when on the road. Best of luck with your vegan menu!