Riverdel Vegan Cooking Class

 Freeni: Hey listeners this is Freeni Aragones, I recently participated in a vegan cooking class hosted by Michaela and her team from Riverdel, a vegan cheese shop with a location in Brooklyn and the Essex Market in Lower East Side of Manhattan. We’ll talk about what she hopes the participants learned from her class, companies expanding the vegan market to non-vegan consumers, what advantages being vegan can have on the world, and how we can use our power as consumers to change the market shape.

Freeni: When you’re making your classes, when you have your ideas, what is it that you want people to take out from it? Besides the cooking what is that you want to give to people?

Michaela: Besides the cooking, which is the essential part, I want to teach people to not be afraid, if you want to explore these options you’re still going to eat well, you’re not going to starve and also I want to keep it simple, because I’m not one who likes to follow a recipe precisely, I like to improvise a lot. I kind of want to give people that option too, for example this cheese sauce recipe that we use, you can use as a sauce, you can use it as a spread, you can add herbs to it, it’s very basic recipe, you can use in many variations, the idea behind it is I want to help people not be afraid of this, even if you don’t cook, you can do a vegan turkey roast, I mean you didn’t think that was going to happen.

Freeni: Some of us might be afraid to change our eating habits because we don’t know how challenging the adjustment could be, making food we have grown accustom to becomes easy to make, and part of our culture. When we go to bar-be-ques a ton of easy to make food is there from hot dogs, to burgers, grilled chicken. So, I wanted to ask Michaela about Beyond and Impossible meat, two vegan options entering the meat industry.

Freeni: Now that I think about it, I want to ask what do you think about the beyond burger and the impossible burger?

Michaela: Their great substitutes, just like you said, they are easy. Burger is already there, you put it on a paddy, and you are done. Don’t have to think about it. Same for impossibly meat. What I like about these two companies in particular is that, their target group are not vegans actually, their target groups is everyone. They are sold in the meat aisle, they are in burger king and places like that you know, places vegans wouldn’t go to cause there’s nothing for me. Their approach is really about, ok, the way we eat right now is not sustainable. How can we fix that? It wasn’t about, oh, here is another product for vegans. They are really targeting a bigger group, that is aware they should be doing something, but doesn’t know how or it’s inconvenient. I do like that approach a lot because it makes people more comfortable with the fact that if I don’t have meat, then what am I going to eat? That’s what people think, you look on your dinner plate and there’s always a piece of meat in the middle. And there are a few sides, then you take the piece away and then it’s like oh, what am I going to do? I think that’s where people need kind of, they need a little help to get over that hurdle.

Freeni: A lot of us consider meat our main source of protein, but Micaela gives us a great term into understanding that we could be selling ourselves short and might not be aware of the effects happening to others around the globe. To produce meat, plenty of resources and land is needed, but other people are being affected because their resources might be used for animals instead. Additionally, most of us might be blind to what is occurring because of the way meat is presented to us.

Michaela: Animals are really the middlemen, we consume them because they have protein, but how do they get their protein? They get it by eating plants and we can do the same. Cutting out that middleman and going to the source, you don’t have to raise an animal to get food and have a healthy life. It’s very sad to see things like the rainforest, the fires that are burning down the rainforest these days is largely due to animal agriculture.

Freeni: The biggest one right now is Brazil.

Michaela: Which is one of the biggest meat producing countries, we don’t even see it here, it’s the people in those countries and in those poor areas that actually get the worse deal of it, we just get the meat shown up in our supermarket, we don’t even realize what’s behind the package of meat.

Freeni: I think the biggest reason for the meat being packed the way it is, I mean besides efficiency and stuff like that, I think people want to create a disconnection from the fact that their killing all these animals, for example chicken is poultry, cows are beef, pigs are pork. You make a disconnection and it helps a little bit.

Michaela: And veal is not a baby cow, but they are baby cows. Or lamb chops, that’s a tiny little…

Freeni: Meat is presented to us in multiple ways and it’s up to us to decide whether we will accept it or slowly start making changes, Michaela helps us have a look into some places already making a change and how small changes can eventually make vegan lifestyle mainstream and show why it’s possible.

Michaela: You always see other countries such as Europe or also here in the U.S. where you see numbers of vegetarians or vegans or plant-based consumers increasing. Hopefully it’s reaching a point where it will become more mainstream, think about burger king and dunkin donuts having vegetarian and vegan sandwiches, that reaches so many people. I think it’s going to show people “hey its possible, I’m not missing out” and going back to the classes, I want to show people that it’s possible, you don’t have to be afraid, you do have a choice and you can make the choice. You are going to save an animal; you are saving the planet and you’re doing so much better for yourself. I think once people start realizing that it isn’t just steamed broccoli and tofu that I’m eating, I hope that more people will take that step.

Freeni: Voting is always important and it’s easier to witness its effects when it comes to food, because our choices make votes all the time, shaping what our supermarkets will provide for us. They always seem to have what we want, but when see new choices appear, we know someone out there has a demand for it, making us curious. When we are presented with new options, we might we make new decisions.

Michaela: So meat companies are starting to realize that, the smart meat companies are the ones that get on board now to support companies such as Impossible, that buy the vegan product companies, because they do start realizing that they have to go that way. That’s the power of the consumer, you vote with your dollar, every dollar you spend you vote with it. So if you buy that vegan product, you are voting for it, you’re increasing demand for it, then companies say ‘hey wait a minute there’s a demand now, and it looks much better for us. You also have those optics; the future generation is looking for that.

Freeni: If there is a demand by them, there should be someone working on the supply.

Michaela: I mean it’s also nice that generation has options now, my parents never said to me “if you don’t want to eat the meat it’s okay.” It was always, this is what you’re eating, what else are you going to eat? We never had that choice, it was never like, oh sure I’m gonna make a black bean burger for you. No, its here you go, this is what you’re eating. My parent’s generation certainly didn’t know that there was an option, now we see that we now have options and you can make that choice and not starve.

Freeni: There are tons of options one can choose to consume if looking to change their way of eating. And if you don’t want to change the way you eat that’s ok, but know there are benefits to this planet, others, and yourself, by expanding the options you eat. A huge Thank You to Michaela and the entire Riverdel Team, for Baruch Blogs this is Freeni Aragones.