Cheese is Looking Pretty Good To Me
You’d think that a hedonistic, history buff, with a penchant for travel and consumption like me would be absolutely satisfied with a career in the wine industry. Don’t get me wrong, I am satisfied. But there is always that question, what would you do if you could do it over again? (Of course the corollary question is why CAN’T you do it over again? That’s another blog post)
I would do it different. I would become a cheesemonger/cheese importer.
I’ve known this about myself for quite sometime. Ironically, it’s my interest and love of wine that convinced me that given the right opportunity I’d choose cheese over wine as a vocation. What is truly stimulating about wine on both an intellectual and gustatory level is the connection between wine and place—wine and terroir, wine and culture, wine and history.
This connection between the product and the place seems to me doubly concrete in the case of cheese.
Like with wine, the exploration of the world’s cheeses brings you face to face with a region’s culture and history. I’m reminded of this every time I spend time in the shop of a dedicated cheesemonger. I did this again this weekend in Carmel where my wife and I celebrated our anniversary. The Cheese Shop in Carmel is not the best cheese shop I’ve ever been in, but it still is so far ahead of what you can find in most grocery stores, even the gourmet independent stores, that it is more than enough to take me to that place where I begin contemplating a different kind of life.
A lot of folks imagine that their interests might make for a good career and it’s prudent to actually examine this thought prior to jumping in. But in the case of cheese I think it is perfectly reasonable to believe that working to become an expert cheesemonger or cheese importer is a career with legs.
The artisan food movement remains strong in America. Our culinary choices broaden out every day in markets and restaurants. New wine regions both in America and outside the States continue to creep into our daily vocabulary and purchases. Restaurants continue to aggressively introduce diners to ingredients with specific place names. It appears that the American palate is becoming more accepting of new flavors and textures. And, travel and communications on a global scale are in reach of the vast majority of Americans, thereby exposing them to different cultures, foods and people.
All this suggests to me that the array of regional, artisan cheeses that exist throughout the Old and New Worlds but are only rarely available in their best form here in most parts of America form a perfect career foundation for folks who are hedonists with an interest in culture, travel, history and eating.
Add to all this that more people eat and enjoy cheese than drink and enjoy wine and the idea of a careers as a cheesemonger or cheese importer starts to look pretty good to me.