Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Thank You to the California Artisan Cheese Makers

The last two weeks of my life have seemed like a whirl-wind! I've taken multiple biochemistry exams, submit awards for Chico Dining Services, tracked copies amounts of foods for the Real Food Calculator, turned 20 (!), and participated in two speaking sessions at the This Way to Sustainability Conference VIII.

Last year I was a moderator for two speakers. This year I was a speaker, twice. 

My first presentation was about the Real Food Challenge and what I was doing towards signing onto the Real Food Challenge and getting more food 'that truly nourishes' integrated into Chico State's food system. 

My second presentation was a dream . Me in a room, with copious amounts of cheese, talking about cheese, for an hour. Oh yes.

Last semester, as a new employee to AS Sustainability, my boss required everyone to submit a presentation proposal about a topic relating to sustainability for the TWTS Conference. As a passionate lover of tasting, talking about, and sharing cheese - I knew exactly what I wanted to submit my proposal on. 

And (honestly much to my surprise) my presentation was accepted and before I knew it, as time has the tendency to fly by unbelievably quick, it was the end of February and the conference was only a week away. It was slightly terrifying. 

When I had originally thought about the nature of my presentation, of course I wanted tasting to be a part of it. I mean how else can you really appreciate or learn about any food if you don't put it in your mouth? And somehow, I believe partially by luck and partially by having connections within AS, I was able to get the green light to actually serve cheese. Hoo-rah! 

So the weekend before the conference, I drove homeward to Sacramento and stopped in at the Cultured and the Cured Cheese Shop. (An extra sunny - and scrumptiously smelly - spot in East Sacramento to pick up some California made cheeses. 

Josh and Andrew - the owner - we enthusiastic about my presentation and wondrously good at guiding me through which cheeses would be ideal for my presentation. But honest;y, could there really ever be a bad choice? They also suggested, however, that before I go drop major bucks on pounds of cheese, I try to get donations from the cheese makers and farmers themselves. 

Slightly intimidated, and rather doubtful - I began to make phone calls and send emails. 

The responses I received made my heart utterly full of gratitude. 

Every. Single. Place. I contacted was happy to donate cheese to me. And I cannot tell you of how exciting it was to be at the receiving end of such kindness. Nor can I convey to you how it felt to come home and see actual wheels - and pucks - and hunks - of cheese sitting in my refrigerator. Talk about a dream. 

The presentation itself went beautifully. We tasted all (9! - talk about a tasting course) cheeses, and I was able to talk briefly about each one - where it came from and who made it. But there was not, of course, enough time for everything . I had to skip the entire last three slides of my powerpoint on How to Build a Cheese Board. The fact that everyone got to taste the cheeses (cheeses I am sure they would never try otherwise) was satisfying enough.

So much of our willingness to explore new things depends on how much exposure we have to it. I could talk to people for days about cheese and how to approach it: tasting, smelling, touching, even flavor evaluations. Yet it is not nearly as memorable (or as fun) as actually having the cheese there and being able to evaluate it with all of your senses. 

The way I deepened my love and expanded my knowledge about cheese was by trying everything I could. And that's what I wanted to share with my audience. I wanted them to taste and be inspired, confused, aroused, mystified, shocked, or humbled. I wanted them to experience the experience with cheese, and have a respect for those who dedicate their time to make great cheese.

So, to the folks who so graciously donated cheese to my presentation at the This Way to Sustainability Conference VIII - thank you ever so much! 

Top to Bottom: Franklin's Teleme Cheese - Washed-Rind. Cowgirl Creamery - Red Hawk.

Achadinha Cheese Company - Capricious 

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