Welcome to The Blogosphere Home of The Cheese Snob. If you would like to know more about who I am and what I do, I recommend you check out my Website, www.cheesesnob.com

Thursday, June 22, 2006

An Introduction Is Always Good

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.

Anyway.

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.

Thanks.
Yours in Cheese,
Wendy

11 comments:

Monica said...

Hey Wendy,

Fab blog! Slightly pungent and somewhat runny, just how we like it. Heard that you show on WFMU yesterday was great and look forward to hearing the archive. Post that link, girl!

Much love,

Monica

Ben said...

The link to the show archive is
http://wfmu.org/playlists/KG
I look forward to listening, especially since a fancy cheese shop with a funny name just opened around my corner with a charming proprietor who is generous with her adjectives.

The MP3 link will remain for two weeks after the show date.

Enjoy,
Benj

Alex Sanchez said...

Hello! I'm Alex all the way from WA state. I came across your blog from the WFMU blog. Anyways, I recently became interested in cheese after I had an amazing cheese platter at a wine/restaurant place in Bellingham, WA. There was a cheese that was from Ireland and was pressed in some kind of beer. It had white ovals surrounded by darker parts (coloration from the beer?). It was amazing! You can probably tell that I know zilch about cheese, but I'm looking forward soaking up some information on your blog.

Alex said...

Hi! I'm new to cheese, but I really, really like it so I can't wait to learn more from your blog! I was at a semi-fancy wine/restaurant place and they served us a cheese that was from Ireland and was pressed in some kind of beer. It looked like white ovals surrounded by a dark coloration (from the beer?). Anyways, I forget what it was called, but after tasting it I decided that perhaps I too can be a caseophile. Cheers!

Wendy M. Levy said...

Hi Benj,

I'm curious, where is this new cheese shop of which you speak? If she's generous with her adjectives, and she is charming, and she is in cheese, I gotta know who she is!

Thanks for writing.
Your in Cheese,
-Wendy M. Levy

Wendy M. Levy said...

Hi Alex,

Thanks for writing. Yes, you too can be a Caseophile. All you gotta do is love cheese!

Hmm. I'm not sure of the identity of the Irish cheese. When you say white ovals surrounded by darker ovals, do you mean in the paste (the middle) or the rind (the outside)? It must be a washed-rind cheese, and there are a few good ones coming from Ireland. It could be Gubbeen, Milleen's, or Ardrahan. Or it could be a cheese of which I am entirely unfamiliar. If that's the case, I gotta know!

Next time you are at the restaurant, ask them about the cheese. They'll probably be happy you asked.

Take care.
Yours in Cheese,
-Wendy M. Levy

Benj said...

Hi Wendy,

The store I mentioned is called "Stinky Bklyn," on Smith St near DeGraw in Carroll Gardens Brooklyn. Nice place, fun people, yummy cheese and other stuff. Be sure to get some peppadews!

Wendy M. Levy said...

Hi Benj,

Oh, I think I read about that shop. If I'm in Carroll Gdns, I'll check it out. Have you been to Tuller on Court St? Howsabout The Bedford Cheese Shop in W'Burg?

And I know all about Peppadews. From S Africa - sweet, spicy, and vinegary in each red-orange bite. Whole Foods Union Square has them stuffed with fresh goat cheese. Good combo!

-WML

Benj said...

Hi Wendy,
Yes, we've been to Tuller, and have had many fine cheeses from them. They are pricey though. My brother in law brings cheese from Bedford on his way down from Greenpoint.
I am new to peppadews, they are very addictive!

I'm finally about to listen to your appearance on the Kenny G show...

Wendy M. Levy said...

Hi Benj,

Yes, Tuller is a bit pricey, but Bedford isn't cheap, either, because they sell really good cheese. They might have slightly better prices - I haven't comparison-shopped between them because I'm a bit far from Bklyn. Bedford is a kick-ass cheese shop, though. Frank has a great aesthetic, and I'm a little jealous of the descriptions on his cheese signs. I mean, mine at Murray's are pretty damn infamous (and deservedly so), but his are an inspiration. I need to take a field trip out there soon and see what's what - it's been awhile since I've been there. Thanks for the reminder.
-WML

Carl Wolf said...

Wendy,
Love this blog. Much rather listen to you and your wonderful subjects. Great luck will come to true cheese lovers.
Carl