Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (online at JSOnline.com) sat down with Gordon Edgar, the Big Cheese of cheese at San Francisco’s worker-owned Rainbow Grocery Cooperative and author of Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge, to discuss Edgar’s punk roots, his upcoming Midwest tour, and of course—cheese.
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Q. Define cheese monger.
A. A cheese monger is someone who buys and sells cheese, but there’s a lot more. . . . It’s the experience of dealing with all sorts of adversity while trying to get cheese to the customers that makes you a monger. Years of cleaning out muck from the coolers, fighting off mice, getting wounded, defines your ability to work with cheese.
Q. How did you become a cheese monger?
A. I didn’t have a love for cheese when I started. It was fine, basic food. . . . no glamour. Most days, it’s listing cheese, cutting, wrapping, cleaning. . . . People think if you’re an expert in cheese you must have gone to culinary school. That’s pretty much not true for anyone in cheese.
Q. How do I pick a good cheese?
A. If there’s a someone behind the counter, say, “What do you like today? What do you have that’s good?” If it is a good store at all, they’ll say “You have to try this.”
Q. How should I store cheese?
A. It’s always best to buy as little cheese as possible. . . . Just buy what you need for the week. Trying to store cheese, you may or may not alter flavor. The worst thing you can do is put it in a plastic bag with a lot of air in it. Air is going to start the mold process and start changing the flavor of the cheese.
Wrap it tightly in clean plastic. If you want to get fancier, wrapping in wax paper definitely helps.
Q. Pasteurized vs. raw. What do I need to know?
A. Basically, people who are pregnant or have compromised immune systems should avoid raw milk or raw dairy products. If that’s not a concern, then there’s very little risk in any cheese - raw milk or pasteurized. . . . You’re pasteurizing for safety reasons, not to make the most tasty cheese possible.