Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Cheesemaking and the vegan dilemma

Today was yet another successful day of cheesemaking. I had my first run-in with the notorious Stackhouse cheese for which our goat dairy is famed (voted number one goat cheese in the south in a juried cheese competition). The process is fairly straightforward. It is a bloomy rind cheese (penicillin mold just like a brie or camembert) with a layer of applewood ash in the center and just underneath the natural rind that forms during the aging process. It's the ash part that gets a little messy (as you may imagine), and since I ashed the cheese I've been sneezing black stuff. I can't imagine working in a coal mine and constantly sucking black dust down your clean, pink lungs constantly. In any case, I enjoyed myself. How much fun is it to be able to get good and dirty at work?

Since I started making cheese I've been having a debate with myself over veganism. I would go vegan if for no other reason than to eat more sustainably and more healthfully, but I really don't see any reason for me to give up eating things that I can buy from local, organic, sustainable sources. I get eggs and any dairy product I can dream up from the farm I work on, and when I need honey I just run down to the coop and patronize a local beekeeper. I was on a vegan blog the other day (and please don't get me wrong--I am a huge fan of vegan food and I support those who make that lifestyle choice) and there was a post on making vegan "cheese." Now, the ingredients in this cheese are all natural, of course, but given the distance that a jar of tahini might travel (not to mention carageenan--a type of seaweed that serves as a thickener and gelling agent) is this approach really any better. If you know the animals are being treated well, given plenty of clean food and water, have outdoor space to carouse in, and you know the cheese is organic, hormone and antibiotic free, then what the hell is wrong with eating cheese? Besides, if you're trying to go natural and are on a budget, I guarantee that local goat cheese (or cow cheese for that matter) is much cheaper than buying all the ingredients that go into a block of funky vegan cheese. Plus, no offense guys, but I dare anyone to make a vegan cheese that even begins to rival the real thing. It's almost silly.


Cynthia said...

blessed are the cheesemakers?
tee hee...

meg said...

indeed, blessed are we--we still whey.