an afternoon with… cheese

an afternoon with… cheese

Against my better judgement, I signed up to work the cheese “stroll” following the annual Heifer Parade, thereby prolonging the mayhem of Brattleboro–instead of making the mad dash out of town right after Bernie waves–which is when the crowd cheers and moves en masse toward the fair upon the “Retreat” Grounds–which I might have to check into after today.

When I descend the steep hill from the Town Green to the fields below, and find my way to the Co-op’s tent, I am surprised to discover that I won’t be standing right behind the platters of cheese like I’ve seen workers in aprons do in years past. Instead, the role that my husband and I are assigned to is: behind the lines to cut the cheese. (I never noticed those people before.)

Champlain Valley Creamery’s beautiful soft ripened triple crème cheese with a bloomy white rind

I’ve never cut the cheese either, and as I attempt to learn the varieties in front of me, I wonder why the coordinator doesn’t just rely on member workers from her own department. It would make her job simpler; but she says that she likes to spread the wealth. And spread, we do; because Casey and I are assigned to the spreading table.

Olive and herb goat cheese.

Camembrie.

Triple Cream.

Bijou.

Ash.

After an hour, I find myself in a rhythm of cutting and spreading, discreetly placing the broken rice things dipped in cheese aside for my own covert snacking; and carefully wiping the leftover cheese crumbles from the cutting board onto my salad for the lunch I will eat when  this two hour shift is done.

I’ve never realized how sensual a cheese can be; and despite the heat and the crowds, I am happy.  I don’t care how much cheese people eat, and whether they appreciate it, or whether they consider visiting the Co-op to buy it, because I am one with the cheese, and its virtue transcends consumerism.

I am so happy (and a bit delirious) that when it is finally time for me and cheese to part, that I decide to stick around at the fair, and listen to music, and dance, and eat my salad with the assorted cheese crumbles.

Somehow cutting the cheese made the difference between fleeing from–and floating through–this afternoon in Brattleboro.

I am still on the grounds when the day closes, licking brie from my fingers.

It’s not that cheese is new to me. I’ve visited France. And I’ve always appreciated the cheese department of the Brattleboro Co-op–back to the days when Henry cut the cheese.

But now I have a greater intimacy with this craft. It’s become personal–and local–made right here in the Green Mountain State– by small farms with names I know~

Jasper Hill Creamery.

Champlain Valley Creamery.

Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery.

Blythedale Farm…

Now when I’m shopping, I pause even longer at the cheese counter… My husband and I pick up one familiar soft friend after another, and gently caress it like a lover. We consider signing up for the same shift next year, and in the meantime, we decide to make a date with a baguette, a bottle of wine, and some artisanal cheeses from around our state.

Kelly Salasin, June 2011

ps. Casey & I did sign up to work the cheese stroll in 2012–and cheerfully reported to duty–even in the pouring rain.

for more on the Brattleboro Co-op:

Farewell Brattleboro Co-op

Blogging for Food, a tribute to my Co-op, Blog Action Day

Open for Business in Brattleboro!

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