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January 3-9, 2007

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Silicon Veggie - Elisa Camahort

Silicon Veggie

Metro Readers Recommend: Part 2

By Elisa Camahort

WHEN I put out my call for recommendations to help me go vegan, I mentioned where I most needed help: "Someone please tell me a good replacement for cheese—it's my downfall every time!!" Some folks gave me substitute cheese recommendations, while others gave me alternatives to cheese altogether, including mental images to associate with cheese to turn me off the stuff.

Metro reader Elaine recommends buying Galaxy Nutritional Foods cheeses at the Country Sun market in Palo Alto. Meanwhile, Caroline has both a brand recommendation (Follow Your Heart) and a recipe for a cheese sauce alternative with nutritional yeast as the primary ingredient. Nutritional yeast was also recommended by Nick, who makes sauces with it but also sprinkles it on foods to add nutrition and flavor. I have my own nutritional yeast recipe, torn out of a PETA magazine 15 years ago, that I use as gravy. I've also ground it up with nuts to make a topping for pasta. Nutritional yeast is a great twofer ingredient, since it is both savory and vitamin-fortified.

Speaking of cheese replacement, vegans swear by the Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak. Joe from New Jersey did have some cheese brands to recommend (Vegan Gourmet for regular cheeses and Soymage for a grated parmesan alternative), but his advice for getting busy in the kitchen was the Uncheese Cookbook. Noelle also eschews buying "fake" cheeses and whips up her own using the book.

I was very intrigued, but it's not a cookbook full of alternative ways to make common cheesy dishes. I expected recipes for mac and cheese, etc., using other ingredients to replicate cheesiness. There are some recipes like that, but mostly this is a book for making "fake" cheeses of various consistencies and flavors. You cannot imagine the varieties of "cheeses" in this book, and the panoply of ingredients required to make them!

Several readers above gave me practical recommendations, but also reminded me why I made this decision: to stop supporting inhumane industries. They reminded me about the veal industry, and how it is kept fully supplied by constantly pregnant dairy cows. Drawing a connection between rich, melted cheese and a baby cow in a small and filthy crate converts the image from rich to revolting.

So, thanks to those who have written with ideas, recommendations and encouragement. I'm past day 90 of this attempt at veganism, and this is the easiest try ever. In fact, I'd say I've gone way past "attempt" and simply "am" a vegan now!

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