Four weeks ago today I had my last cheese sandwich.
I didn’t know it was going to be my last cheese sandwich. I didn’t have chance to savour its creamy, salty goodness and appreciate its hard work over the years. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. I just ate it, took it for granted, before my brain just up and decided that y’know what now’s the time to try and go vegan y’all.
FOUR WEEKS AGO.
This is quite the event. I’m not sure I’ve ever gone 24 hours without cheese before. I’ve been known to have a cheese sandwich for breakfast, lunch and supper. Some might even say I ate a little more cheese than was probably necessary. (Outrageous lies). On my birthdays, friends would get me cheese, cheese boards, and cheese jigsaws. I’m never happier than when it’s Babybel time.*
*Other cheeses are available and would be eaten, thank you.
But I’ve been vegetarian for a while now and for a long time I’d been saying to myself that I’d like to go vegan but couldn’t because I was too gastronomically attached to cheese. I’d already subbed in almond milk and vegan butter, ate eggs rarely, so cheese was the main culprit. I felt if I could get over my cheese habit, the rest would fall into place. So I finally just took that extra step and went and stopped eating cheese.
And I’ve done it for four weeks now and apart from some initial cheese anxiety (OMG WHAT CAN I ACTUALLY EAT), cutting dairy completely has actually been ok.
‘Course, I’m still learning about a few things that for some reason have unexpected animal products in, and there’s still a few veggie-but-not-vegan freezer items that I’m sure I’ll work my way through at some point, but on the whole, the shift to vegan feels like its more or less established.
So, what’s replaced cheese?
Honestly, I don’t think anything really has—at least nothing that replicates a good slice of cheddar. But there’s times when you want something to pretend that it’s cheese, and here’s what I’ve found so far.
A spoonful of nutritional yeast (mmmmmm, an incredibly appetising name I’m sure you’ll agree—the cool kids call it Nooch I am led to believe) sprinkled over pasta is DEFINITELY NOT CHEESE but gives you a nice, quick tasty topping. I highly recommend teaming it with a dollop of vegan yoghurt if it’s on something spicy. I’ve been eating Engevita, and take probably too much enjoyment offering my yeast to people innocently trying to enjoy their meals.
Oatly Cream Oat Spread is actually a great substitute for soft cheese—I’m yet to try it mixed through pasta but it certainly works on toast or in sandwiches.
Applewood smoked cheese (I’ve only tried the grated variety), does a not terrible job if you’re really feeling the need for cheese—I use it sparingly, more for the hit of smoked flavour than for the cheese benefit. Too much and it kinda feels, well, too much.
Do I miss cheese? A bit, yes. When I went vegetarian, some people would say “oh but I couldn’t do without a good steak”. Trying to be vegan, cheese is my steak.
Do I need to eat cheese? No. In fact, in all fairness, I’ve probably been eating better (read, more variety, healthier) this month than I have for a while, and I’ll carry on looking for good substitutes and new meals to try.
So here’s to more dairy-less, cheese-less feasts going forwards. For those of you that don’t eat cheese, for whatever reason, what’s your best cheese sub?