It is time for a confession. I fear I have misled you, dear reader, for I am yet to bridge that final gap between vegetarianism and veganism. I have been able to shun milk and butter, cast aside eggs, but there is one battle yet to be won. My sin is not an uncommon one, but it haunts every profession of love for the plant-based that I post, lingering like the smell of overripe brie in the fridge. With that reference, my fatal flaw comes to the fore.
Cheese. It is hard to explain why so many find it so difficult to shake this persistent addiction. When deconstructed to show it for what it really is, it’s somewhat revolting. Aged dairy, left to coagulate and harden, to stink, for months before consumption is even considered. Yet, weak-willed and quick to surrender to the craving, I can’t quite shake my love affair with these blocks of essentially off-milk.
Though improvements have been made, and the market is expanding, vegan cheese never quite seems to hit the spot. There are usually only variations on a ‘cheddar’ style, which unless specifically flavoured tend to maintain a subtle unpleasant tang of coconut oil. There are plenty of tutorials for making your own vegan cheeses online, of course, but who has the time or the energy? Perhaps these are the lies I tell myself to justify my sin, just the lines of argument against the self-denial that should be exercised.
Following my trip to La Fauxmagerie on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I can perpetuate my lying no more. Tucked away just off Brick Lane on a quiet cobbled street, both the name and the surroundings of the shop present you with some sort of alternative universe version of Paris. While a little cosy, from the moment you enter you are in safe hands. There is an extensive selection of plant-based cheeses, cured meat-replacement and classic accompaniments of crackers and biscuits, carefully explained by the knowledgeable staff. Every type of cheese you can think of had a vegan alternative, lovingly crafted to look and taste the part. The prices are steeper than your supermarket alternative—three cheese and a box of crackers came to £20 total—but the quality is more akin to a regular fromagerie selection, a vrai-magerie if you will. The majority are cashew-based as opposed to coconut oil, which takes on a life of its own rather than an artificial echo of the real thing.
The (Not) Cheeses
While I could have certainly sampled the whole shop, I tried to get some variety in my selections. By far the star of the board was the Lemon & Thyme Rigotta. Spread across a crunchy cracker, the whisper of citrus and herb gently counterbalanced the creaminess of the rigotta itself. It needed no accompaniments, in fact, without the cracker I would have happily eaten from the jar with a spoon. Next was the Minerthreat Smoky Charcoal, a harder cheese powdered with black charcoal. Admittedly, there is never the same bite in a vegan cheese as there is in the real thing. It either crumbles or sustains a somewhat rubbery texture. Minerthreat held its own on heady smoke flavour, despite the somewhat unexciting texture. The Garlic and Herb was much in the same, with a fun stripe of beetroot pink and well-established flavours as indicated in the name.
As far as a cheeseboard goes, I was not disappointed, but I was also not especially impressed for the most part. Maybe it’s the longing for the original, seeing the one that got away in the reflection of the new. Taking a step back, without any knowledge of real cheese I don’t think I could fault these products. The burden of comparison is a heavy one. The tendency of plant-based foods to attempt to replicate their non-vegan counterparts is often the greatest cause of their downfall. That being said, the cheeses at La Fauxmagerie toe the line between imitation and originality, and, cheese-loving biases aside, I respect that immensely.
This certainly won’t be the last time I visit La Fauxmagerie, especially if I am to alleviate myself of cheesy sin and transcend to genuine veganism. The choice really is endless, and with new innovations always in the works I don’t think that is likely to change any time soon. By Christmas time, who knows, perhaps I will be enjoying a board laden with the goods of La Fauxmagerie rather than the stinky dairy slabs that I am yet to purge myself of love for.