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The Cheese Whisperer

When most people think “artisan cheese culture” (if they think about it at all), they probably think effete snobs and pretentious foodies. And to be honest, cheesemonger Gordon Edgar has had to deal with his fair share of these.

But coming out of the punk rock, lefty activist culture of San Francisco’s 1970’s People’s Food System, Edgar sees himself as a translator between the hardworking dairy farmer and the gruyere-sniffing hipster—a fromage émissaire.

From Mother Nature Network:

“I think the term ‘activist’ as an identity really needs to be destroyed,” says Gordon Edgar, who has a lively and extensive history of activism himself. Edgar is a longtime cheese buyer and handler at San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery store. He is also a popular cheese blogger, and his smart, funny, and sharply analytical memoir Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge has recently been published by Chelsea Green.
Edgar and I are discussing the different strains of “snob culture” that meet at the famed worker-owned co-operative’s cheese counter. Rude sales reps aiming to intimidate cross paths with pretentious foodies spouting jargon they don’t understand, but neither is any more malignant to leftist movements than sneering militant activists who look down on the less-enlightened consumer and are unable to discuss their politics without patronizing.
“[Activist as an identity] sets you apart from the people you should be talking to, as if there are ‘activists’ and ‘non-activists’ and the activists are somehow more evolved. A lot of people think ‘oh, Rainbow Grocery, it’s going to be this ultra-political place.’ It is and it isn’t. Workers running their own business is a radical thing, but day-to-day you have to be real. You have to be able to talk to the person who comes up to the counter who hasn’t studied the locavore movement. You have to be able to have a conversation and explain why we sell the things we do without sounding like we’re judging someone because they haven’t already come to the same decision.”
Rainbow Grocery is a survivor of San Francisco’s 1970s People’s Food System, a network of food justice and environmentally oriented collectives and co-opertives that was sadly destroyed, as so many ambitious leftist projects are, by sectarian squabbling and power struggles. It is now a part of the emerging US Federation of Worker Co-operatives.

Read the whole article here.


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