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.


4 Responses

  1. dfredman - October 2, 2007

    The Cheese Store in Carmel is amazing- they’re usually at the World of Pinot Noir and Hospice du Rhône every year with a fantastic lineup of obscure cheese. A passionate cheesemonger is important- I go out of my way to shop at the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills or even the Silverlake Cheese store because they’ve gone to the trouble to source the weird stuff and they’re able to talk about what they’re selling. This isn’t necessarily true at Whole Foods or other local gourmet markets. I’m happy to shop at the specialty stores and pay a few extra dollars if I’m going to learn something about what I’ll be eating.

  2. Jill - October 2, 2007

    ditto on Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. It is absolutely amazing. Plus, compared to Whole Foods, I find their prices are actually fair — with the added value of their generous offer to let you TRY before you buy. Even if a cheese is 10% more per pound (which, at BH it surprisingly isn’t), getting to taste and determine what to buy cancels out any pricing premiums.

  3. Loulou - October 3, 2007

    I recently called The Cheese Shop in Carmel from here in France on my sister’s behalf. She lives close to Carmel and had been here to visit and wanted to know where she could purchase certain cheeses upon her return to the States.
    Who knew she was such a cheese lover!
    They were so nice and helpful on the phone. What a wonderful place to celebrate your anniversary!

  4. Gwendeaux - October 3, 2007

    I so identify with this, and am now asking mself if it was my love for cheese (ore likely food) that kind f led me to a fairly satisfying career in the wine business? In the fifth grade, I chose CHEESE as the subject of a required class speech. Nevermind that the 6th grade speech was on ESP…another possibility for my next career as a psychic??

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