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  • Writer's pictureSteve Schubert

The Problem with Cream Cheese?

In the realm of desserts, cheesecake is hard to beat. My family reserves it for special occasions like birthdays and holidays. Last week, the manufacturer of Philadelphia cream cheese announced that they would offer up to $20 to the first 28,000 people to buy alternative desserts to help offset the current shortage. Citing “unprecedented demand” they would “reimburse the cost to replace your homemade cheesecake.” A few days later, that limit was reached.

I’m sure by now you are asking yourself, “Is this blog really about cream cheese?” No, not really. It’s more about resiliency in the face of insecurity. Food insecurity is not a problem for most (about 87 percent) of people living in the US. That’s because our collective standard of living is high; therefore, we can afford to import whatever we don’t grow or make here. But if the last two years have taught us anything, it should be this: the world is changing (not for the better), and we are responsible. Supply chain disruptions are just a symptom of the larger problem – Americans consume too much. It does not matter whether that is a result of per-capita or collective consumption (from a large and ever-growing population). It’s just a fact. It’s also not sustainable.

Going forward we have a few options: 1) ignore the problem, 2) do without or use less, or 3) find alternatives. I’m sure that Option 1 will appeal to many people. Humans have a great capacity to ignore a problem until it becomes catastrophic. It’s like that quote from the movie Jaws (from Richard Dreyfuss to the mayor): “I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you in the ass!”

Option 2 is certainly a sound choice. Personally, I have either stopped or greatly reduced eating certain foods due to the cost or the environmental consequences of how that food is grown/harvested/created. Seriously, $28 per pound for grouper? No thanks! But I’m not going to tell you to stop eating anything. Rather, think about what you will do when the foods that are easily available to you today are not available tomorrow. For example, ocean acidification has already been implicated in the loss of oysters in the Pacific Northwest. The amounts of other mollusks, zooplankton, fish that inhabit coral reefs, and possibly some crustaceans will also decrease with increased ocean acidification. Increased air temperature and reduced water availability associated with climate change will likely reduce the availability and quality of beef, pork, and chicken.

If variety is truly the spice of life, then Option 3 is in order. After all, where’s the fun in a gastronomically boring life? I don’t want to live like that. However, I recognize that the decisions I make today about the size of my environmental footprint will have effects tomorrow. No doubt, change is hard, which brings us back to cream cheese. If cheesecake is on your New Year’s Day menu, now’s the time to try an alternative. To that end, we found many alternatives to cream cheese-based cheesecake, and these two non-dairy recipes:

Bon appetit!


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