The cheese of the month for December 2021: Soft White from New Roots in Emmental/CH

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Emmental – isn’t that where we were for last month’s cheese? Indeed. But, and, to jump right in (put a protecting hand under your jaw!): strictly speaking Soft White isn’t a cheese at all, as it’s made from cashews instead of cow’s milk. Bang, they dropped after all, your jaws. Heinzelcheese is presenting a vegan cheese… I know, I’m shaking my own head!

Because so far all I’ve encountered in that category was scrappy, to say the least, more like mashed nuts shaped into cheese. What on earth made me spontaneously pick up this little round guy at my favourite organic food store, I have no idea. But I was extremely surprised, and positively. True, the uniform, smooth texture is not like cheese made from animals’ milk, and it lacks in aromatic complexity. But still: it’s a pleasure to eat, does not taste of nuts, and is not heavy on the stomach (one of my issues with all its predecessors – and I’m not even taking into consideration the industrial junk, so-called analogue stuff made from soybeans, palm oil or other vegetal fats).

You can learn more about the New Roots guys and their philosophy on their website – it’s a nice one, if somewhat one-sided. Also here is a report about them from Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). As vegan “cheese” has been on the rise for a while (the other day I met Maria Scharfe, one of the Formo team’s food scientists), here a few questions and thoughts.

I wonder:

Is cheese (I’m dropping the quotation marks) made from plant-based milk really more digestible or even healthier?

Am I too wary – why does the outsourcing of the raw material’s production (the New Roots cashews come from Vietnam and Burkina Faso) remind me of Leonard Cohen’s Old Black Joe’s still pickin’ cotton for your ribbons and bows and everybody knows… – so convenient not to have those plantations not on one’s own doorstep, the view from one’s own window unencumbered by stables and pastures…

What would Switzerland, the Alps, all those other mountain landscapes look like without the historical symbiotic connection between ruminants and the human species?

To reject cheese in general because of the big industry’s abuse of animals (and humans), is a pretty radical gesture – how about those cheesemakers who treat their animals (and co-workers) as well and decently as the New Roots assure us is the case for their cashew farmers?

With a retail price of over seven Swiss francs per 100 Gramm cheese (as for the Soft White) a lot could be changed for the good on dairy farms and creameries.

Ok, enough. I’d be really interested to know what your thoughts are on all this. Looking forward to your (fair!) comments…

And for the coming days I wish you a ton of good cheese (and wine :), I am grateful for all the wonderful, inspiring moments we had together, during this once again turbulent year – and don’t forget: There’s a crack in everything. Cheesio, my dears.

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