Allow us to introduce you to Courtenay, our Specialty Director and resident cheese-head! She’s here to tell you more about the cheeses she loves so dearly. Got a cheese you want to learn more about? Leave your suggestions in the comments, and we’ll put Courtenay on the case! For now, let’s allow her to introduce herself…
Lots of folks ask me how I got started in Cheese…
I was lucky enough to have a really cool job in high school. I didn’t have to work the fry baskets at a fast food place. I skipped scooping ice cream. My first job was at The Gourmet Shop, in Columbia. SC.
I was always fascinated with the shop. It had glass cases full of Belgian Chocolates and Cheese cake, huge glass jars of Italian oil cured tomatoes, a glass case with whole wheels of cheeses, and big barrels of roasted coffee. It was heaven.
I wanted to work there so badly that I pestered the owner almost every day to hire me. I always got the brush off. I was starting to give up. But one day I was in the store with my Mom. It was the day before Thanksgiving and the place was packed. Dennis, the owner, saw me and asked, “Hey, do you still want that job?” You bet I did.
The best part of The Gourmet Shop was the cheese counter. I couldn’t believe it! I mean, I was the kid who grew up on Kraft singles….and maybe, if I was lucky, some Hickory Farms Smoked Gouda at Christmas. This shop and the job changed my life, literally. I became fascinated with the cheese
I remember vividly my first “Cheese Love”. It was Taleggio- the stinky, luscious washed rind from Lombardy in Italy. We had to “pre-order” it. That was different. Most cheese just came in the next week after we placed the order. When it arrived, it was wrapped in wax paper, and it had an Airplane sticker on it that said, “Air-shipped” Air –shipped? What? It was just like getting one of those thin blue envelopes with “Par Avion” as the Post Mark…mysterious, foreign, and dramatic. It tasted like nothing I had ever eaten. That was all it took, I was hooked.
Then I started realizing that cheeses had been made the same way in Europe for thousands of years! Cheese History? Be still, my beating heart! I could eat, basically, the same thing that some peasant or king did in France in 900 AD? Sign me up.
The next big epiphany was that people, real people, made cheese. Yes, factories produce the big “industrial” cheese like Jarlsberg and the big round white wheels of Brie. But when I started really getting into Artisan American Cheese, I got to meet some of the people who made the cheese. It wasn’t a team of food scientist…It was farmers! Good lord, why didn’t my farming Grandparents do this? I could have been a Cheese Geek since childhood…
So, now some of my favorite cheeses are from people that I have actually met. There’s something amazing about eating something delicious…and you know EXACTLY where it came from.