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Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese - Portland VegFest Presenter
September 1, 2013
Take advantage of both of Miyoko's upcoming cooking demos at this year's Portland VegFest! See her Saturday at 3:30pm when she presents Cheeses in the Fast Lane: Fondue and Almond Ricotta-stuffed Shells, Sunday at 2pm for her Quick, Cultured Cheeses: Cream Cheese and Boursin demo, or both!

By Trista Cornelius, Contributing Writer
Miyoko Schinner is one of the most inspiring plant-based artisans I’ve had the honor of interviewing for this newsletter, and you will get a chance to meet her at Portland VegFest where she will be presenting not once, but twice!

Miyoko is the author of Artisan Vegan Cheese and the Artisan Vegan Life website, but her directions for making vegan cheese are far more than recipes. They are instructions in how to live a joyful and conscientious life.

For example, the first thing Miyoko teaches about making vegan cheese is patience. She explained to me in an email conversation that cheesemaking “involves culturing and fermentation, which means letting nature do its thing... This is how the cheese achieves its flavor. And it takes time. So give yourself a few days, take a big breath, relax, and wait for the magic to happen. It will, but not if you rush it.”

I don’t know about you, but this is a lesson I need to learn, and maybe I’ll begin by making one of Miyoko’s recipes. The Cashew Cheese recipe that begins her book looks the most basic, but it requires rejuvelac, a fermented grain starter. Miyoko includes clear directions for making rejuvelac, but as she says, it takes time, which brings me back to the word “artisan” in the titles of her book and website.

Miyoko’s life-long career working with food stems from this idea of creating artisanal products. David Lee, founder of Field Roast, calls this “hand energy,” the work of individual artisans crafting your food with patience and care.

Miyoko wants to teach us how to do this for ourselves. She has another book in the works about helping people rely on themselves, rather than on packaged and processed foods, by teaching us how to makes things like pickles, sauerkraut, and bread, items that once were “made in people’s homes.” She strives to “take the mystery out of these foods and show folks that it’s possible to do it themselves.”

When I asked Miyoko if she had advice for other vegan entrepreneurs, she returned to patience. Her career has been a winding road, including living in and studying different cultures, running a vegan restaurant, and creating vegan products. However, in spite of all of that success, she says, “It's only recently I feel that I've begun to succeed in the way I want.”

She encourages others to “learn as much as you can, and become an expert at whatever you do,” a bit like David Gabbe, vegan cooking instructor and author, advises as well. Most importantly, she demands, “Don't give up! If I'd given up after my struggles a decade ago, I wouldn't have written Artisan Vegan Cheese, and I wouldn't be speaking at Portland VegFest. So believe in yourself, find what is unique in you that you can give to the world, and work your butt off!”

If you’re not yet patient enough to make your own vegan cheese, Miyoko has plans to start an “artisanal non-dairy” and sell her cheeses.

In addition to meeting Miyoko at Portland VegFest (Saturday at 3:30pm and Sunday at 2pm), you can find her recipes for vegan cheese and French classics like crepes in recent issues of VegNews (September/October 2012 for cheese, and September/October 2013 for crepes).

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