Summertime fun often includes pool or beach trips and scooping up cold, flavorful ice cream on a scorching day. Nicole Foster and Dwight Campbell, owners of Cajou Creamery, have you covered with a plant-based twist.
“We’re handcrafted cashew milk ice cream with no dairy, no soy, no gluten and no artificial ingredients of any kind in culturally curious flavors,” Foster said.
When it comes to reimagining how to create one of America’s most popular desserts a healthier way, dates are used to sweeten Cajou’s guilt-free ice cream. It’s lower on the glycemic chart.
“We’re both West Indian and we both have members of our family that are diabetic. So, knowledge of what sugar does to the body is a part of our branding,” Campbell said.
Cajou Creamery, a Black-owned business, is touted as the first and only plant-based creamery in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The plant-based creamery and café is located at 411 N. Howard St. in Baltimore, Maryland.
In a time when nutrient-rich food is getting more challenging to find, the husband-and-wife duo combined Campbell’s chef culinary expertise with Foster’s legal background as a public health attorney who worked in the field.
“It’s a healthy ice cream because I wouldn’t serve the public anything less than that,” Foster said.
Foster and Campbell are travelers who came up with recipes from ingredients that they had in their pantry. Communities of color get to see themselves represented through scoops of delicious, plant-based ice cream. Foster added that inspiration comes from around the globe. Foster and Campbell tried their hand at recreating flavors from their favorite international treats such as the Middle Eastern dessert, baklava; Horchata, a Latin American drink; Sweet Potato Pie; Cortadito, a Cuban coffee drink and other standard flavors.
“We started making ice cream based on these flavors that we experienced from around the world,” Foster added.
But Cajou Creamery’s customers who come to the café can also find flavors from around the globe that are made specially by the business’ chef, Campbell.
“We love ice cream. Our children love ice cream, but we wanted something healthy,” Foster said.
She reflected on the genesis of making scoopfuls of healthy treats. The magical spark began after the couple had a baby who was born four months early in 2007.
“He was in the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] for four months during which time he was being fed a dairy-based formula, and we realized that the dairy-based formula was making him sick, so we had no choice but to switch to a non-dairy formula. Within a couple of days, we saw a turnaround and we watched him thrive,” Foster said.
Living a dairy free life evolved. When their child became a toddler, Foster and Campbell began looking for non-dairy, delicious healthy versions of ice cream. They were shocked by their findings.
“All of the ice cream was laden with synthetic ingredients. Laden with ingredients that for me [as someone] with public health expertise, I knew was not good for our bodies that lead to a lot of things that our community suffers with. So, for example, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, etcetera. And so, we thought, ‘Wow, these purportedly healthy ice creams are not healthy at all,’” Foster said.
Upon making the discovery, Campbell had been a chef for approximately 10 years. Foster wanted to create more recipes using raw food.
“The two of us just kind of put our heads together to make our own ice cream that would fit the bill,” Foster said.
The couple also wanted to add flavors that represented various cultures. Foster and Campbell succeeded. In the beginning, they sold their vegan ice cream at farmers markets. Campbell said that in addition to those who are loyal customers, other customers find out about Cajou Creamery from Instagram. Some individuals who visit the area Google vegan ice cream and locate them.
One of Cajou Creamery’s missions is to employ formerly incarcerated individuals.
“And the reason for that is because I was also a criminal defense attorney and I have worked with that population and found them to be brilliant and have some of the most talented minds in the country, but they don’t get an opportunity to thrive. We wanted to help change that,” Foster said.
Campbell stated that they are trying to become a worker-owned co-op.
“That’s what we’re moving towards so that we cannot just affect our family but affect other families and the families of our employees/owners,” Campbell said.
Cajou Creamery ships across the United States. Visit www.cajoucreamery.com to obtain more information.