Miyoko Schinner, founder of vegan artisan cheese company Miyoko’s Creamery, spoke to WBUR Cityspace about her journey as a vegan cheesemaker and her views on veganism and food labeling issues on September 30.
“My goal is to change the food culture and get people to start thinking about what they eat and how it impacts everything, not just the planet but society,” Schinner said in an interview.
At the event, titled “Curated Cuisine: Miyoko Schinner and the vegan cheese revolution,” Schinner signed copies of her cookbook, “The Vegan Meat Cookbook: Meatless Favorites. Made with plants. Samples of its chili and meatless cheeses – farmhouse cheddar, smoked mozzarella and gouda as well as truffles and sun-dried tomatoes and more – were also offered to attendees.
Her appearance was part of WBUR Cityspace’s “Curated Cuisine” series, which spotlights local and national chefs through conversations about important food-related topics, said Candice Springer, deputy director of WBUR’s Cityspace.
“It’s about bringing people in, pulling the audience in and getting them to enjoy a little bite of food and learn about people they didn’t necessarily know beforehand,” Springer said.
Steven Davy, senior producer at CitySpace, said food is one of the “quickest routes to community”.
“I think it’s important to see all kinds of cuisines and understand where your food comes from,” he said.
At the event, Schinner said she went vegan in the ’80s and cheese was still on her “to-do list.” According to the Miyoko’s Creamery site, the company now specializes in aged cheese wheels, spreads and butter made from “state-of-the-art” plant milk fermentation.
“I just started exploring the fermentation of plant milks and understanding how these plant milks behave when they’re fermented, when you add different enzymes or yeasts or molds or bacteria,” Schinner said.
Schinner said humanity is at a turning point in history where people truly have control over their food choices. After 2,000 years of experience making animal dairy cheeses, she says, we’ve only been trying to understand plant milk fermentation for less than two decades.
“We not only have an opportunity, but a huge responsibility to think about the future we want to create for ourselves, for our children, for our grandchildren,” she said.
To change attitudes towards veganism, she also said vegans need to show how ‘exciting’, ‘sexy’ and ‘phenomenal’ it is, while reaching people’s hearts ‘through their stomachs’. .
“If we want to cross the chasm to reach a wider audience of foodies, we need to make cleaner, just more natural foods,” she said in an interview.
Shyla Smeed, a five-year vegan and avid Schinner’s supporter, said Schinner was a “favourite” in helping her overcome her love of cheese as she transitioned to veganism.
“I could listen to her for hours because I agree with so many things she says,” Smeed said. “Especially companies that use ‘plant-based’ are very frustrating because they can say plant-based and then there’s chicken and it’s very disheartening.”
Lauren Robbins, a Boston resident and vegan for 16 years, said she’s a fan of Schinner and his products and thinks Schinner “has the power to make a lot of changes.”
“[Vegans] have come a long way and their products are so superior to everything else,” Robbins said. “And of course being a woman entrepreneur of color is even cooler and so for her to be here is really exciting for me.”
Davy said when he first moved here over a decade ago, there wasn’t as big of a market for vegan food as there is today.
“The understanding is growing, and people are interested and curious and much more tolerant,” he said.
Schinner said the future of vegan products is a decision that comes down to debunking many of the myths surrounding veganism and the negative language associated with vegan foods.
“We have to give people FOMO,” Schinner said of non-vegans. “We have to create the future we want to believe in or believe in, otherwise we can either inspire people or live in fear.”