It’s too late to change the name of this blog; but using the rules set forth in Gordon’s book for becoming a real life cheesemonger…The Lady hasn’t earned the title yet. According to a guy named Tommy that Gordon met at the 1999 American Cheese Society Conference, “You can’t call yourself a cheesemonger unless you’ve killed a rat in the walk-in cooler, kicked a sales rep out of your store, and bled from a cheese wound.” The Lady has seen a dead rat in a trap outside the door to her walk-in cooler; she has fussed at customers for sticking their fingers in the samples (they had to reach over the toothpick holder to do that); and she has a hump on the top of her right foot from dropping a 32-pound Rembrandt wheel on it… close, but evidently no cheesemonger…
There is one criterion that qualifies The Lady: she has a cheese name; actually she has three; “Cheese Wiz” was the first bestowed on her by Ernie, the Wine Steward who occupied the real estate next door to her first cheese kiosk; “Duchess of Cheese” given her by Amy, “The Queen of Cheese” and her BCFF; and “The Big Cheese” that her friend Rebecca, the Engineer and self-proclaimed socialist, put on The Lady’s name tag at the store where she now works.
The Lady’s copy of Gordon’s book is a mess; she has marked pages and broken the binding at least three times. She loves this book and so do I. Many nights were spent beside the fireplace with her reading aloud her favorite parts to The Man and the Feline Foodie (that would be me).
Loving this book says something about The Lady… she and Gordon are about as far apart politically as any two cheesemongers (or should I say one cheesemonger and a wannabe) could be… well that might be a stretch; The Lady is a conservative-leaning libertarian and Gordon is… well, Gordon is a leftie who pretty much traces everything he doesn’t like about America back to the Reagan Administration.
Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge is a no nonsense book about cheese; making it; selling it and loving it.
Gordon has a passion for the dairy farmers who are struggling to make cheese in small batches and selling it while literally trying to save their farms. It is a pleasure to read his adventures visiting small farms; each chapter discusses issues or facets of cheese that will interest even the most-casual cheese lover (is there such an animal “casual cheese lover”?… not around here…) including rennet, raw milk, salt, grass-fed, terroir. These parts of the book educate the reader. At the end of each chapter, he also includes descriptions of cheeses that reflect the discussion in that particular chapter.
For The Lady, her favorite parts were reading about customers at the Rainbow Grocery who have separated-at-birth siblings that often show up in The Lady’s store as well: The customer who thinks that just because she visited France, she is now an expert on French Cheese…The Lady lived in Detroit but she can’t build a car… come to think about it neither can GM… but I digress; or the customer that berated The Lady because she didn’t have a list of raw milk cheeses (she does now) – that customer’s sister advised Gordon that Raw Foodists were going to take over the world… of course, San Francisco and Portland aren’t that far apart politically… maybe they just travel up and down Interstate 5 bedeviling cheesemongers and wannabes…
Surprising to The Lady, she also shares a cheese moment with Gordon: his “Love of cheese” moment came when he cracked open a wheel of Antique Gruyere. The Lady had a similar moment with Gruyere which I wrote about back in 2008 and titled it, “The Traveling Gruyere Wheel”.
If you like cheese… and most people do… and want to know more about the culture of cheese and the politics of a punk rocker turned cheesemonger, you’ll love this book. If you love cheese and work anywhere in the cheese industry, regardless of your politics, you’ll really, really love this book.