When I began working at Artisanal Premium Cheese, the company was in its infancy. I too was in my infancy, my infancy regarding exposure to and knowledge of artisan made cheeses. I had always been in love with cheese, but my experience with it was very limited. This was a fantastic opportunity and as I learned, I wanted to share the knowledge and the cheese with my friends and family.
Everywhere I went I brought cheese. Meeting a friend for drinks or dinner out? I had a little sample or two stashed in my bag for them to take home and enjoy later. (I would bring anything that looked good. Later, after reports that cheese had been forgotten in bags overnight, I had to revise this to any hard cheese that looked good.) Making a casual weekday dinner at a friend’s? Of course we would need cheese to nibble on before or after dinner. Invited to dinner? With the host’s permission, I would bring a carefully thought out selection to compliment the meal. On several occasions I have brought a one to two pound hunk of cheese as a hostess gift, sometimes for the same hosts. I have even brought samples to my doctor. Anytime I went home to my parents’ I always brought a large selection of cheese, eager to share with them all of my new and old favorites.
While the cheese was always met with seeming pleasure, I started to get a complex. I was afraid that I would be labeled “Cheese Lady”. While this would not be altogether bad, it is not as catchy as “Super Star” or even “Smarty Pants”, for that matter. I started imagining derisive comments and conversations that my friends would have. “Oh, here comes Michelle with her cheese again!” or “What do you think Michelle will bring? CHEESE?” I would break out into cold sweats just thinking about it. I had no option, but to make the break. I stopped bringing cheese wherever I went. Even when one of my regular recipients made the comment that I didn’t bring him cheese any more, I shrugged my shoulders and paid no heed.
Then I made a trip home, empty-handed.
It was for Thanksgiving. I had been busy during the weeks preceding the trip and was tired. I didn’t have it in me to DECIDE which cheeses to bring and then the thought of having to CHECK the box of cheese at the airport seemed like an unseemly amount of work. I made the selfish decision to bring nothing other than myself. I reasoned that my family should be happy just with the fact that I was there and besides, it was THANKSGIVING; as always there would be too much food. We certainly did not need cheese added into the mix.
I was wrong.
I rationalized my decision to every family member. They all professed to understand and assured me that it was okay. Yes, there is tons of food and a lot going on; it would be difficult to squeeze in an informal cheese tasting any way. But their words could not erase or hide the sagging shoulders and the looks of disappointment on each of their faces. My brother-in-law, Steve, finally brought home the point. He told me how hungry he had been the morning of my arrival and how he had considered snacking on half a dozen different things. But then he thought to himself, “No, Michelle will be here soon and she will have cheese.”
I realized that while nibbling on delicious and rare cheese is an everyday thing for me, for my friends and family, it is a treat, one that they look forward to with excitement and anticipation. So, to the dinner party I am attending tonight, I am bringing a Clacbitou to compliment the host’s spiced pecans and as a gift for her to relish on her own, a wheel of nutty Tourmalet. She loves to make cheese toast with it for a morning treat. And
when I flew home for Easter this past April, I checked that little brown box, with the Artisanal logo, filled with precious cargo for my family, and myself, to enjoy.