After a great deal of prodding by supportive friends and colleagues, I am finally starting my own Cheese Blog.
I've seen some food blogs out there. Some are interesting and funny; however, I haven't seen any written by actual food professionals. Is it because we're all too busy to sit down and write? Pshaw! I'm a writer. If I can't sit down and write a cheese blog, there's something wrong.
So here's my story:
September 1995, Brattleboro, Vermont. I'm about to go back to school after my summer break. (For those of you keeping score at home, I graduated from Marlboro College.) I need a job. All summer, I'd been working in the produce department at The Brattleboro Food Co-Op. There weren't enough hours for me there, so I asked my manager what I should do. Her answer: "I hear Henry needs some help in the cheese department." So, I go to Henry and say: "Hi Henry, I hear you need some help in the cheese department. I need some hours. I know nothing about cheese other than I like to eat it." Henry's response: "Well, My Dear, there's no better place to start."
From then on, I was hooked. See, I'm a nerd. And all nerds need something about which to be nerdily obsessed. I didn't like computers back then (I didn't even really know what they were), Science Fiction burned my fingers, there weren't enough record stores in town to satiate that lust, and my math skills are excellent up until Algebra. Oh, and I am not really into Star Trek. What's a nerd to do? I found cheese.
A few months after I began working in the cheese department, I was, uh... in bed with a boy I was... uh, "seeing." (I'm trying to keep this clean, okay?) After we were... uh, I mean, when we were just, um, lying there, I started talking to him about all the exciting new cheeses I had discovered. Yes. In bed with a hot boy, talking about cheese. That's me. He was very nice about the whole thing. I think he liked it.
Since September 1995, I've tried working at other, non-cheese-related jobs. It never worked. I always had to at least put a few hours per diem in the cheese department, like when someone was sick or on vacation. Eventually I'd give up the non-cheese job completely, and return to my Casa de Queso, my home in the cheese department. For some time, I even ran my own cheese department in another store, and that took some hard work, because when I took it over, it was a whole lotta nuthin'. But I poked and prodded, and when I left, the department had the second highest sales of all departments in the store, second only to the wine department. (And this was Vermont - what else were people doing other than boozing it up? haha.)
And it was at that job that I discovered how much fun it is to write about cheese. I had no full-service case (it was a small-ish store), and I was bringing in a lot of new cheeses, so I needed to find a way to tell everyone what they were all about. I had a good relationship with a salesman at one of our distributors, and he was a caseophile, too. He would give me lots of information about the cheeses, and what he couldn't tell me, I looked up in Steve Jenkins' book, "The Cheese Primer." Using this information, as well as what I already knew, I wrote a weekly (or so) Cheese Bulletin. I listed new cheeses, including information and uses. I also brought up one cheese-related topic every week, such as raw vs. pasteurized, different categories of cheese, etc. I put them in a stack in front of the cheese case, and the store's cashiers put them in people's shopping bags. The staff read them, too. And people enjoyed them, asked when the next one was coming out, and voila, my sales went way up. It was a fun time.
There's more to the story, but "make them wait, make them come back for more" is not only a good philosophy for aging cheese, but a good philosophy for life.
Next time I'll tell you about Henry. I mentioned him earlier in this post, so if you are thinking "Henry who?" then you haven't read carefully enough. Go back and re-read this post so next time you are prepared.
Yours in Cheese,