I am as unlikely a cheese expert as they come. If you had told me as a kid growing up in suburban Chicago that I’d become a cheesemonger, the first thing I probably would have said was, “What the heck is a cheesemonger?” Over the years, I’ve come to think that perhaps my ancestors conspired to get me into cheese. My maternal grandmother grew up on a small, diversified farm in southern Wisconsin; she fondly recalled dropping off milk cans at the train depot with her grandfather at dawn and having ice cream for breakfast afterward. When my sister was studying at Oxford, my family visited a town in Leicestershire, England, called Saxelbye that had little more than a church and a small Stilton factory in it. I have also been contacted by the Australian branch of the Saxelby family, who brought me newspaper clippings of turn-of-the-twentieth-century advertisements for Saxelby blue cheese and Saxelby cream cheese sold Down Under once upon a time. Whatever it was in my destiny that led me to it, I am so happy that cheese chose me.
Cheese has become the lens through which I see my world. This transcendent, joy-provoking food contains all the cosmos in a morsel—history, science, art, community, and culture. As someone who is endlessly curious, I have found that exploring the world of cheese really scratches that itch. Learning about cheese is a lifelong pursuit—the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. It’s that humbling, yet inspiring aspect of cheese that convinced me to make my first leap into the industry, and why I hope I can continue to do this job until I am old, well-aged, and hopefully more complex! Like a good wheel of cheese . . .
Sharing what I know and helping others discover and love new and different kinds of cheese are also things that bring me immense happiness. When I got my start in the cheese world, I knew less than nothing. All I knew was that I loved to eat it and was willing to take the plunge into uncharted territory to learn more about it! Along the way, I’ve had so many mentors and friends share both expertise and experiences with me, and I try to pass that good energy forward whenever I have the opportunity to—whether it’s giving people a taste of my current favorite behind the counter at our shop, educating restaurant professionals on the ins and outs of cheese service, or having the opportunity to write this book! Appreciating cheese should not be complicated; it should be fun, inspiring, and devoid of pretense. To that end, I will try to do whatever it takes to get people to trust me enough to take them on a small, cheesy journey. You just never know what may come of it!
Lastly and very importantly for me, cheese also happens to be a vehicle to support a righteous and delicious cause. In the world we live in, where wealth and resources are being consolidated into fewer and fewer hands, and where the threat of climate change is tangible, cheese is a very real way for people to put their money where their mouths are—by supporting small-scale sustainable farms, rural communities, and small businesses.
It is my hope that by reading this book, you’ll feel inspired: inspired to try new cheeses, inspired by the work that goes into each wheel of cheese you see on the cheese counter, and inspired to share your love of cheese with your friends and family to make this virtuous cycle bigger and more inclusive. The information in these pages is practical, whimsical, and at times even a bit nerdy. It’s all designed to empower you, cheese lover, to take your love to the next level
Copyright © 2020 by Anne Saxelby. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.