With rose pepper, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic, and even truffles. That’s the offer of hand-crafted vegan cheeses made from cashew and almond milk that you can taste at THELIVINGFOOD, a small bio-vegan store with a commitment to a more health-conscious lifestyle, and which has become a reference for vegans and non-vegans at the heart of the Sant Antoni district of Barcelona.
It is estimated that the vegetarian market will reach a turnover of close to €5 billion in 2020. Figures hard to imagine for the person in the street, but which become credible with a simple stroll through Barcelona. The latest numbers say that vegetarian establishments in Spain have doubled in just five years and that the Catalan capital has about fifty of them. There are many more businesses, however, that have emerged under this deep-rooted trend. Businesses that last because they have nothing to do with what is trendy in the big city, and which are involved with life projects that emerged long before concepts such as raw diet became part of our vocabulary. Not everything that is fashionable comes and goes, and that is the case of THELIVINGFOOD, a small bio-vegan store that has become the vegans’ cheese paradise in Barcelona.
“We started by trying to adapt the techniques used with animal fats to vegetable fats. Fermentation was something that came to us though Santi, who was born into a family that runs a centuries-old craft bakery. So it was a matter of taking another step,” says Miguel.
Miguel and Santi are responsible for making more and more vegans happy, vegans who, like them, do not quite take to the absence of cheese in their every day lives. “We have been vegans for many years but we could not get over going without eating cheese. Everything else was relatively easy for us, but the cheese…” they explain openly. THELIVINGFOOD has opened a new dairy—the previous one was behind the shop counter—a sign that they were not alone in missing a highly addictive food. “Our idea was not just to eat cheese, but to make the cheese that we dreamed of by way of texture, appearance, smell, flavour, quality of the ingredients and nutritional value.”
Ten different types of cheese arose from that idea, “handmade and by using the most traditional techniques possible.” From that idea, and also through a year and a half of research in which both were immersed in the process of making traditional artisan cheeses. “We started by trying to adapt the techniques used with animal fats to vegetable fats. Fermentation was something that came to us though Santi, who was born into a family that runs a centuries-old craft bakery. So it was a matter of taking another step,” says Miguel. That other step has names and almost surnames we might say.
TYPES OF CHEESES
- Unripened, farmer’s cheese: white, rose pepper, and tulasi (holy basil)
- Semi-mature cheese (four weeks): with klamath (algae) or with achiote.
- Cured cheeses (ten weeks): with paprika and smoked; with sun-dried tomatoes and garlic; blue cheese, and with black truffle.
These ten cheeses, as well as the special editions that they elaborate according to season like the semi-cured cheese with dill and wrapped in grape leaves, are elaborated with cashew and/or almond milk. Miguel and Santi are sincere and recommend trying them “with a very open mind and without prejudice. It must be understood that it is another type of cheese, just as there are cheeses made from cow’s or ewe’s milk, there are also others from seeds and nuts.” They advise, and I bear witness to this, not to make comparisons or look for substitutes. Simply allow yourself to be surprised by a food that is not intended just for vegans. “Nowadays, those who may not be lactose intolerant will have come other allergy, or simply that cheese does not go down well because it gives them indigestion and they prefer a healthier, organic, raw product loaded with probiotics and digestive enzymes.”
Demand for their products has increased in recent years. They know that they are fashionable, but they also realize that when this passes there only will be “people who have really incorporated a lifestyle that, for us, goes far beyond taking a selfie with a green shake or not eating meat,” says Miguel
Vegan is trendy, but THELIVINGFOOD does not follow trends and is committed to healthy living. In fact, it was a health problem that gave rise to Miguel and Santi’s little great adventure. “We were forced to investigate thoroughly about new forms of nutrition because one of us was diagnosed with a rare and incurable disease as a side effect of taking a prescribed medicine.” They left their respective professional careers in the world of theatrical teaching and production on one hand, and psychology on the other, and embarked on a project that took shape around the idea of “making everything that we discovered known, and that helped change our lives as well as contribute to the dissemination of the benefits of organic, vegan and raw-live diets in order to help people take responsibility for their lives and upgrade to a life free of premature ageing, disease and unnecessary pain.”
They do not deny, however, that demand for their products has increased in recent years. They know that they are fashionable, but they also realize that when this passes there only will be “people who have really incorporated a lifestyle that, for us, goes far beyond taking a selfie with a green shake or not eating meat,” says Miguel. Sincere commitments like theirs help to position in a change of social paradigm.
For the time being, Miguel and Santi have limited their radius of action to Barcelona. They collaborate with various restaurants in the city, as they are concentrating on the production that will emerge in the coming weeks out of the new dairy. They do not rule out resuming shipments to other cities in Spain and, why not Europe, once they have the stock up and running. “Now we have a larger curing chamber and we produce non-stop every day to supply all the demand,” says Santi in one of the few free moments his work at the dairy allows. They are preparing a new cheese for Christmas but, wary, they do not want to give details. The curious will have to go to this small corner of Sant Antoni—Viladomat, 85—to discover new flavours and continue delving in a world that, although a bit contradictory for a non-vegan starter, is an interesting culinary challenge.
One last recommendation by Miguel and Santi to enjoy the experience: “A good board of artisan vegan cheeses accompanied by fruit, crackers and/or bread, lots of vegetables and a good glass of kombucha.”