The French Cheese Exception


I married an omnivorous Frenchman – a risky move for a vegan. But this particular Frenchman is incredibly supportive of my vegan lifestyle, of our vegan home, of plant-eating in general – he just wants to eat delicious food, he doesn’t care what that food is made of. And he has never, ever uttered any kind of ‘where’s the meat-type sentiment,’ a fact I am very grateful for. All was very harmonious in our mixed-culture, mixed-diet household… until our half omni-half-vegan offspring arrived.

There were many long-winded conversations and negotiations in the lead up to our child’s birth (long conversations were one of the things we had time for back then!) about the various ways we hoped to parent. In the diet department, the following compromise was reached – our daughter would be raised vegan, except for good French cheeses. Exactly what constitutes a ‘good’ French cheese and who would make that judgement was left unexplored, as was the grey area of ‘very good French-style cheeses made in NZ’. Basically I gave in to the idea that there were certain tastes and experiences I knew my husband wanted our daughter to share with him, that he saw those things as important and essential parts of the human experience… and that this idea may, at times, carry over to ‘very good’ patisserie.

I assumed this would be a rare indulgence and we agreed to the terms.

But of course in practice it’s more complicated that that. Of course it is. Everything to do with parenting is more complicated than one expects, so why would this be any different?


It started with her friend’s 1st birthday cake. It wasn’t vegan. Anaïs didn’t care – didn’t even know what cake was back then. But her Papa suggested she try a bite, because well, “it’s a birthday, it’s rude not to!” And so it began… birthday cakes, wedding cakes, then any special occasion food, basically he had amended our contract to state that she would be raised vegan, except for good French cheeses…. and party food.

“I don’t want her to miss out!” Is a common call. As is, “it’s just a little bit.”

But it’s a slippery slope isn’t it?
Our daughter is now almost two and a half – not yet old enough to understand veganism or even feel left out of shared food events, and she still doesn’t give a toss about cake, and the parenting contract sub-clauses continue to be amended, relaxed and then reigned in again. I find myself equal parts infuriated at the situation and grateful that my family is cruelty free day to day, and that the party food doesn’t (and never would) include non-negotiables like meat.

For now I continue to feed my family delicious, healthy plant foods every day (I should add here that the Frenchman also cooks a lot and makes amazing vegan food) and talk to my daughter about kindness to animals, and I’m working on distraction techniques for myself for when my Frenchies start heading for the food table!

The life of a vegan in a world that consumes animal products is complicated. There
are compromises and exceptions, and our values are ever-changing – they have to be. I decided a long time ago (while shouting at a stranger at a protest) that compassionate behaviour needed to cover humans too, and learning that we can’t control what other humans do and eat is an important and difficult lesson. So my plan is to be kind, love my family, inspire others to eat plants and to always take an awesome plate of black bean brownies to a party (and spread the word that they’re vegan as soon as they’re all eaten)!


Black Bean & Chia Seed Brownies

1 tin back beans
1 T black bean aquafaba (liquid from can)
1 T chia seeds soaked in 5 T water
3 T oil (coconut ideally)
1/2 C sugar or 1/3 C agave syrup
1/2 t vanilla extract
3/4 C cocoa powder
1 1/2 t baking powder
pinch salt
1/3 C vegan chocolate chips

Drain black beans, reserving some liquid. Add beans and 1 T bean liquid to a good processor or blender (I use a bullet and do half at a time because I like the texture super smooth). Add all remaining ingredients except choc chips and mix until smooth. Add a touch of water if it’s super thick. You won’t be able to pour the mixture but you want to be able to smooth it out a little when in the tray.
Spoon into greased muffin tray or brownie tin, sprinkle with chocolate chips and bake for 20-25 mins at 170 degrees. Take them out when they smell ‘baked’ and the edges pull away from sides slightly. These brownies are super soft when just cooked so don’t freak out. Leave in the pan until cool or else it’s a nightmare to get them out of the tin. If you use a brownie tin, cut when cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

makes 24 mini muffins or 1 brownie tray (brownie tray is way easier to get out of the pan!:)
recipe inspired by Minimalist Baker

*Originally published in Green For Life NZ winter 2018

*I’m also working on some vegan cheese recipes so stay tuned!

Photo credits: Alice Donovan Rouse, Flip Grater, Audrey Fretz



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