Post Cheesynessence

Ha, ha: the last-saved draft of this blog entry began, ‘hard to believe it’s Eater (sic.) already, but you had better believe that, just because I haven’t been blogging about it, does not mean that I have not been cooking!’ 

Dull pic. of nuthin’ much cookin’

Indeed, you must believe that many are the blog posts I have begun to compose over the six months or more since the close of last BBQ season and, believe it or not, we fired up the communal BBQ on our roof top for the first time this season only last night. Not, likesay, that your BBQ is strictly my scene, Gene.

Actually, several of my putative blog posts were extensively researched – the lasagne epic; the nut roast saga – but events intervened before they were written up and then the moment passed. Life, as John Lennon might have said, is what you actually eat while you are thinking about recipes. Permit me to summarize the progress of my on-going culinary odyssey.

During Veganuary, starting the year as I meant to proceed, I confronted my sugar habit, again, and once more abstained from eating cheese. I hoped that a month of no sugar in coffee and tea would re-educate my palate and make unsweetened beverages more acceptable. As for cheese, I renounced all dairy for Lent last year and this year I did it again, having breezed through a cheese-free January. In early February, celebrated with a half kilo block of Mature Cheddar and pigged out on cheesey toasties for a fortnight, until I felt fat & queasy.

Don’t get me wrong. If we are going to Franco Manca in Brixton Market for pizza before or after the movie, I am having number five, with anchovy and mozzarella. Innit. However, at home fron day to day, I can mostly do without cheese. Engevita Nutritional Yeast Flakes make an acceptable substitue for grated Parmesan, providing that twist of umami
to pasta sauces. Mash the flakes into a paste with oil, plus turmeric
and other spices and smear it over a cauliflower before baking to make a
weirdly cheesey baked cauliflower!

Gotta love vegansidekick.

‘If I am not yet quite ready to relinquish all cheese,’ I wrote around the Equinox, ‘I am so over blocks of supermarket cheddar, in any permutation!’ It is not that I want to be vegan – I embrace no ‘ism’ – but I do recognis-ize the imperative to progressively refine one’s diet. My resolutions for this year are to avoid animal products and supermarkets, so far as is practicable and as much as I want to at any given moment.

Abstinence taught me that I prefer to sweeten coffee or tea, but sugar is bad and I’m not convinced that the approved vegan alternatives – agave syrup – are any better. So, I’m going to carry on using honey. I’m not ashamed to say that I buy the cheapest honey, but at least I buy it from Oli’s, – the Turkish 24 hour market in Walworth Road – rather than Tesco. I mean, I know it’s stolen from the bees of more than one country, both within and beyond the borders of the EU, but it is 100% clear honey, which must be better than refined sugar. Even if, you know, it is stolen from bees; that is currently where I draw the line!

Nor a Sainsbury’s Loco!

Swerving Tesco is facilitated by my involvement with Fareshares, where I continue to volunteer on Wednesday afternoons, when we re-stock, and do the 4-6pm shift on Thursdays behind the counter in the shop. I also run the Facebook page – another reason why this blog has been quiet – and use this image as a profile pic. Indeed, Fareshares is the anti-Tesco, a perfect example of non violent direct action against corporatism and a durable model that should be widely copied. Why doesn’t every neighbourhood have its own Fareshares?

My involvement with Fareshares has been hugely rewarding, not financially – although I benefit from the same discounts as y’all – but in terms of community relations and personal nutrition, as I continue to try. My conversion to the creed of coconut oil has been a real game changer, in terms of getting away from animal fats. It has become my default cooking fat and I have been known to spread it on toast.

I think my lingering attachment to animal fats is mostly about that unctuous way they coat one’s tonsils. Over Lent, last year, I succumbed to an urge to splurge cow grease on my toast while on retreat with no lovely coco to go to for that peculiarly comforting mouth feel. Even now I furtively stash a block of unsalted butter in the fridge door for spreading on toast, mostly, and melting into mashed potatoes when the Vegan Police aren’t looking. Don’t tell anyone!

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