Say the words healthy, delicious and dairy-free in the same sentence and then add “Made in the Hudson Valley,” too! That, my friends, is a real win-win-win.
When you land on its website, you may read these words: “Treeline Cheese is totally dairy-free. It is made of pure, wholesome cashew nuts, acidophilus culture, salt and pepper. No animals are harmed, or even touched in its production.”
Those are the words that drew me in, but when I tasted the cheese, I was a believer.
Vegans are well aware that we can eat healthy and hearty, and still not take anything from an animal, including its freedom.
There’s always a story behind a company that strives for quality as well as compassion, and the story of Treeline Cheese is no exception. Growing up under a system of apartheid in South Africa, Michael Schwarz’s parents taught him that he did not have to conform to what others were doing, and he took a stand against racial segregation. When he learned of the cruelty to animals inherent in the dairy industry, he realized it was not so different from the apartheid he ethically opposed. Michael started his career as a patent attorney with a desire to make the world a better place. As a vegan, he was well aware of the huge gap in the market for good vegan cheeses and began experimenting in his own kitchen. As demand and business grew, he built an 8,000-square-foot factory in Kingston, and the story ends well — Treeline vegan cheeses are now sold nationwide, in thousands of stores.
This vegan cheese-making process involves turning the cashews into a thick cream and then culturing it carefully over time. The soft cheeses are packaged as soon as the culturing process is complete. The aged cheeses are further matured in aging rooms for several weeks before being packaged. Michael told me that they use sophisticated equipment, but stay with time-honored techniques of culturing, and that the cheeses are rich in probiotics. No stabilizers, gums or artificial preservatives are used, and no oils are added. Treeline cheeses have fiber, are cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat and salt. You cannot say that about dairy cheeses. What you can say is that dairy is linked to many chronic ailments and serious diseases — no thanks, I’ll have what Michael is having!
Until I understood what was really happening in the dairy industry, I thought those farms seemed so bucolic. I didn’t know that cows are continually, artificially impregnated because like humans, cows only give milk when they have a baby and are lactating. Their babies are taken from them, as desperate mothers cry out in grief to be with their children, wailing for days and weeks. Their children are stolen because we take their milk for our own human consumption. Cow’s milk is the nourishment mother cows provide for their young, growing a 65-pound calf into a 650-pound cow in about a year. The proteins and hormones in cow’s milk are not suited for humans, and cause countless problems in our bodies. Allergies, digestive issues, hormonal issues, obesity, diabetes and cancers can all be linked to dairy consumption, and yes, osteoporosis, too (http://bit.ly/1n4x3eV).
One of my favorite explanations about cow’s milk is from Dr. Klaper in the documentary “Cowspiracy,” when he attests to the fact that “whether you pour it on your cereal as a liquid, whether you clot it into yogurt, whether you ferment it into cheese or whether you freeze it into ice cream, it’s baby calf growth fluid.”
When I asked Michael for his view of the importance of living vegan, he crafted a beautiful response: “The stress that humans are putting on the environment at the moment is unprecedented. Animal agriculture is one of the most destructive activities we indulge in and probably stresses the environment more than any other human pursuit. It is one of the leading causes of climate change, stresses water supplies and takes over natural habitats. Plus it just doesn’t work. Aside from the fact that the exploitation of animals is cruel, eating animal products is unhealthy. In my opinion, switching to plant-based nutrition is a matter of survival for our species and our planet. It is the single most effective step anyone can take to help the environment, save animals and lead a long and healthy life.”
The website (http://www.treelinecheese.com) also has some interesting recipes. I’m going to try the Chickpea Frittata with Broccoli and Mushrooms this week. Throughout my years writing this column, I have always advocated for eating and living compassionately. Now I can add, shop locally, too!
“We do not need to continue living the way we lived yesterday. Free yourself of that belief and a thousand possibilities beckon to a new life.” — Christian Morgenstern