C’mere and I’ll tell you a little secret.
I wanna work at a cheese shop one day.
Not because I relish working retail. And certainly not because I’m good with the unwashed masses…although the sort of people who frequent cheese shops are arguably more washed than others.
I want to work at a cheese shop because it means I’d get to eat international cheeses all day long, and do it as part of my job.
See, I’m not a food snob. I’m much more happy with a plate of rice and beans than I am with, I dunno, organic lamb shanks encrusted with pistachio shavings, pomegranate reduction sauce and salted sea foam glaze. I’m not a wine snob because I admit I don’t have the palette to tell the difference between a $50 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and one of the more decent runs of Two-Buck Chuck. And it’s not like I’m gonna pop for the good stuff on my budget. I just need a drinkable weekday swill.
But a cheese snob? Oh I’m well on my way.
A month or so back I went to a fancy restaurant known for its wine list with some friends, one of whom was indeed a professional wine snob (he sells champagne to restaurants for an upscale liquor company, so he’s paid to know his stuff and we can forgive him his airs). So there we all were, laughing and drinking and eating yummy little things on tiny little plates, when along comes the cheese plate I’d ordered.
“What is this?” I asked, poking at a small wedge of butter-colored cheese with an orange rind.
“Looks like Munster,” said Debs.
I tasted it. Munster. Or as we call it at my house, “Monster.”
It’s what you buy with your lunch meats and put on sandwiches.
Who puts Munster on a cheese plate?
I went on, scowling. “Dill Havarti? Swiss? Brie? For the love of Pete, I can get all of this at Trader Joe’s!”
“They probably did,” said the wine snob.
Outrageous! How dare they put ordinary grocery store cheeses on a cheese plate, throw on some almonds and dried apricots (also available at TJ’s) and charge $20 for it. They didn’t even give me any membrillo! The gall!
I was completely put out. And the fact that I was greatly amused me. Nobody else seemed to care that much. Or at all.
So a few weeks later I did what any frustrated cheese snob would do: I made a pilgrimage to the Cheese Store in Silverlake.
And I spent a great deal of time sampling wares that should have been on my cheese plate. Like Malvarosa, a sheep’s cheese from Spain. And Celles sur Cher, a goat cheese from France…and a whole bunch whose names I didn’t bother writing down. Of course I bought a healthy wedge of Humboldt Fog, because that’s just sex on a plate as far as I’m concerned.
OK, compared to a real cheese snob (or a cheese shop employee) I’m a mere tyro. I know just enough to get myself in trouble. The snob part comes in because I really do love this sub-section of food and, um, thirst to know more.
And as longtime readers of this blog know, I was in high school before I ever tried a cheese that wasn’t a Kraft cheese-like product. Camembert was a revelation. And there’s still so, so much to learn.
Hence, that job in a cheese store. One of these days, Alice…
As for ongoing research, I snacked all day on my wedge of Ossau Iraty, thank you. They eat it for breakfast in the Basque Country, you know.
I’ll just have to take an extra yoga class this week…