The final installment of my Babysitter Blog series is here! My favorite health & wellness professionals have shared something new with you all while I’m on maternity leave (and quarantine/isolation time as well!). The boy will be 6 months old on Friday. I can’t believe it! It’s been a strange, surreal and unique postpartum experience, for sure.
I thank you for your patience while I’ve been navigating my new role as a Mom to THREE! (Along with new roles of home school teacher, OT therapist, Speech therapist, educational therapist and preschool teacher to name a few of my new duties these past few months!)
Without further ado, the last post is from my sweet & generous friend Ted Lai. You may remember his #familygoals post from my LAST babysitter blog series. I am honored to have him back.
(Side note: my family and I have tried and enjoyed all of the vegan cheese he mentioned – and he mentions MANY! – but he’s being modest here. His Plant Alchemy cheese is AMAZING! 🙂 )
Be safe and stay healthy!
Ted Lai: It’s a Good Time to Be Vegan
We chose to go vegan approximately 17 years ago… 2003. To put that in perspective, that was six years before Daiya began selling mozzarella shreds. The only plant-based cheeses I can remember back then were by Follow Your Heart and Tofutti, and neither of them really melted. There were some meat substitutes, but the market was mostly Morningstar, Gardenburger, and Yves. And honestly, I usually didn’t eat any of these because I either didn’t like them or they weren’t vegan. Tofurky was the saving grace for many a new vegan. There were no commercial oat milks or hazelnut milks or banana milks. The commercial option was soy… maybe almond… and that was it.
The plant-based world is way different now. From ultra-realistic burgers by Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods (and more on the way), to a variety of cheeses that vary from low-cost to artisan-quality, there are a plethora of options. You know the vegan community is in a good place when people are having debates about which artisan cheese they prefer… Miyoko’s or Treeline? Or maybe you prefer any number of other local brands like Vtopia, Vromage, or Blöde Kuh, (hopefully Plant Alchemy is in the conversation too). If you like realistic vegan burgers, are you a fan of Beyond Burgers or Impossible or the new Lightlife?
Here’s the thing… people can go round and round debating which one they prefer, but I don’t think it matters which one each of us individually prefers. The fact we’re able to have a discussion or debate now is the win. We have the freedom to have a preference! And I don’t mean that it’s a preference of the one product or nothing at all. We don’t have to support something just because it’s the only one or one of a few. We don’t have to fear that if one product or restaurant fails, then others will be too scared to take a risk in the industry.
You’ve probably read or heard about the food trends… plant-based dairy products and protein substitutes are on the rise . And this means that we have choices! Seventeen years ago it was a world full of vegan product scarcity. There weren’t many food options in the market or restaurants. Telling a food service business that you were vegan often resulted in raised eyebrows and quizzical looks.
Innovation and opportunity arise from scarcity and challenges. That’s one of the constants in life. Whether it’s the invention of things like the wheel, the printing press, or higher capacity rechargeable batteries, or the culinary crafting of vegan cheese with depth of flavor and superior texture, innovation is sure to follow soon after a challenge.
It was the lack of options that started us on the path to experimenting with making vegan cheese and seitans… and we eventually launched Plant Alchemy because of those experiments. Now three years later, we’ve increased our options and continued to tinker with flavors. Our business has grown, and we have a loyal following of vegan customers who feel more like family. We see them in Long Beach almost every Sunday. But it’s the non-vegan customers that have truly grown our business. These are the ones who are allergic to dairy or lactose intolerant or just vegan-curious. They’re the ones who are convincing other non-vegans to give our products a chance.
We embrace them because that’s how veganism will grow. We weren’t the first vegan cheesemakers out there, and we won’t be the last. Go ahead and discuss your favorite vegan cheese out there. We’re just glad we can be part of the conversation.
From humble beginnings as a four-year-old making peanut butter and pickle sandwiches to his work as a vegan chef, Ted understands the power of food in life. A vegan father of a plant-based family, Ted is known on social media as @WokWildside and also hosted the @VeganMacGyver show where he demonstrated how to be vegan on the road by cooking in a hotel room with an iron, a coffee maker, a blow dryer, and an ice bucket. His current adventure is Plant Alchemy, a small-batch vegan cheese and plant-based protein-substitute business in Southern California. Look for @EatPlantAlchemy on Instagram or just come by and visit at the Long Beach Farmers Market at the Marina on Sundays.