Last week I had a rather frustrating exchange with a cheese professional I respect immensely. He has been in the business for a looooong time and is probably one of the greatest cheese connoisseurs in the US and maybe even the world. I met him at the Vermont Cheesemaker’s Festival over the summer and have kept in touch with him sporadically ever since. I wrote to ask him his advice on the best way for a cheese-lover like myself to learn more and delve even deeper into the world of cheese – to become a connoisseur like him… internships, classes, etc?
He responded back to me right away with a sort of ‘shit or get off the pot’ answer. His point, was that if I’m really serious about becoming a connoisseur and being taken seriously in the world of cheese, then I have to start working behind the counter as a cheese monger. That is the only way. He also said there are only a few real paths in cheese – importing/distributing, retail (owning a cheese shop) or writing about cheese (which he seemed to think was an improbable way to make a living) – all of which are extremely hard work. Or… he said, I can remain a “dilettante” if that is satisfying enough for me.
I had to look up the exact definition of dilettante – as in my head, it carried a negative connotation along with it. The two Myriam-Webster definitions are:
1: an admirer or lover of the arts
2: a person having a superficial interest in an art or a branch of knowledge : a dabbler
Now, this really struck a nerve with me. I’ve always been a little afraid of that with myself… that I am just a dabbler… flighty, interested in many things but only on the surface. I have always worked hard – in school to get good grades, in my sales career to get more commissions. I like being well-respected and successful. But the truth is, I don’t like working super hard unless it’s also super stimulating and fun for me. I’ve never been the work-a-holic type and I really don’t want to be. People, family, relationships, travel, new experiences – those areas have always been what fills me up the most.
Also – I did get a job as a cheese monger when I first left my ad sales job… and it was a miserable experience for me. It could have been the timing… the shop was just having their grand opening, but it was stressful – I was on my feet all day, I had to use a deli slicer for cured meats (which scared the crap out of me), I felt like the people who worked there were not very warm or helpful (I was the only one who had never worked in a food retail shop before), the hours were long and I got paid $12/hour before taxes. Now if the situation would have been different, the money wouldn’t have mattered to me… because all I wanted was to learn (I volunteered to take on extra shifts… trying to be a team player and get more experience in), but it wasn’t a nurturing environment for learning… so after two weeks, I quit, feeling pretty lousy about myself.
So really… working retail doesn’t appeal to me at this phase of my life. But I AM craving more serious cheese knowledge. I can keep buying cheeses and reading about them and writing about them on my own just for fun… but I want to be around other people who know MORE than me and who can teach me.
So that’s that. It’s a dilemma… maybe I don’t want to work professionally in cheese – but I DO want to know as much as the professionals know! Hmmmmm. To be continued I suppose.
Meanwhile, here are my photos from Saturday and Sunday:
Photo 281 out of 365 – “Bakery Barbie”
"Bakery Barbie" - Settings: ISO 1600, f/4.5, 1/80 sec, 24-105mm lens (40mm)
I took this at the Red Ribbon Bakeshop
in Queens after our dinner at Sripraphai on Saturday night.
Photo 282 out of 365 – “Profile in Front of the Bookcase”
"Profile in Front of the Bookcase" - Settings: ISO 6400, f/4, 1/30 sec, 24-105mm lens (85mm)
I took this last night while watching the Patriots get beat by the Jets. Boo. Rob here was playing the guitar in between plays. I made the background that greenish hue because it subdued it a little, allowing Rob’s face to stand out more.
Happy Monday all.