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Gordon Edgar Reports from Cheese-A-Topia!

Gordon Edgar, author of the memoir Cheesemonger, A Life on the Wedge, reports in two recent blog posts about his recent trip to the American Cheese Society conference in Seattle. He was a judge and also gave a reading from the book (a somewhat difficult combination, he admits).

I am not a good traveler. It kind of hurts me to admit it, but it’s true. If it’s not anxiety, it’s ailments. I knew it was risky getting on the plane to Seattle with a head full of allergy congestion, but wow… I was in serious pain by the time I landed even though it was only a 1.5 hour flight. My ears weren’t just stuffed — I had about 25% of normal hearing in my left ear, 50% in the right – but they were painful. Like someone was jabbing them with icepicks. I felt like a cheesemonger Trotsky… but then I guess I do sometimes.

When I got to the Seattle Sheraton – home of the 2010 American Cheese Society Conference [1] – I ignored my cheesy friends, loading up on antihistamines, ordered terrible, overpriced room service, and went to bed. I had 1400-some cheeses to judge the next day.

Of course, as most of you know by now, I didn’t have to judge that many cheeses myself. I was part of 15 teams of two dairy professionals – one aesthetic judge (me and other retailers, distributors, and/or writers) and one technical judge (usually a dairy scientist). We each taste and judge a few subcategories — about 50-60 cheeses a day. Then, we taste all the winners of each subcategory to decide on a winner for Best of Show. This year, that was about 100 more cheeses.

IMG_2894 [2]

Dr. Nana Farkye (of Cal Poly) and me were a judging team. Chutarat from the Cheese Board Collective [3]and Bonnie from a cold storage company (that I didn’t catch the name of) were the folks who kept the cheeses coming.

I can’t count how many times I was asked, “How do you taste that many cheeses and not die?”

Read the rest of Gordon’s entry on Cheese Judging here… [4]

After lending his expert palate to the monstrously delicious task of judging cheeses, Gordon had a reading from his book at The Calf and Kid.

I had no other options, but it was kinda crazy to schedule a reading after a day of judging cheese. I imagine that in any forum where one needs to use their voice, one is never given the advice to taste cheese for 8 hours beforehand. It does not exactly limber up the larynx. But Tuesday night before the cheese conference was really the only time I could do a book event and not be in competition with the officially sanctioned parties. Though I would miss a lot of the conference goers, I figured it would be a good event mixed with Seattle-locals and cheese travelers. And I love The Calf and Kid [5]. Sheri runs a really fabulous shop. (Plus she gave me a CD of her hubby’s punk band!) One thing I hadn’t realized was how loud it was going to be there. I had only been there once before and not all the businesses had opened yet. My addled, cheese-soaked voice had to compete with the restaurant next door. I decided I could only read short pieces. I could barely hear myself. I made everyone gather in close too. calf kid set up [6] (Sheana Davis, the mastermind behind Delice de la Vallee and the Epicurean Connection [7] organized all the cheese for the event. Pt. Reyes Toma, Nicasio Valley Cheese, Valley Ford Cheese, and Carr Valley Cheese amused the attendees when I cut my reading short-ish.) It’s always great to do a reading with a lot of cheese folks because they really get into it. When I talk about oozy, nasty Taleggio, they’ve lived it themselves. Many came up to trade stories afterwards, and many are worse than the ones I tell. It was also handy because other folks jumped in to answer questions. Despite my voice woes, it was a wonderful event. I can’t list everyone who was there but it was awesome to have cheese mentors like Judy and Charlie Creighton in the same room with some of my favorite cheese-friends, old friends, the cheese-curious, and even my agent! Thanks everyone! *Along with all my old friends and cheese friends, I also got to meet Kurt Reighley whose book United States of Americana: Backyard Chickens, Burlesque Beauties, and Handmade Bitters: A Field Guide to the New American Roots Movement [8] comes out this week! I haven’t had a chance to crack it yet – too much cheese! – but I promise a review when I do. **There is also an account of the reading in Jeanne Carpenter’s Cheese Underground Blog [9]
Cheesemonger [10] is available in our bookstore.