“It all comes back,” writes Joan Didion in her famous essay on the subject of writer’s notebooks. Now that summer is slippering away, I find myself flipping through pages of cheese notes on rainy afternoons. It's true. It does all come back.
For almost three years now, I have recorded every nibble, every recommendation overheard at the cheese counter, along with lists of cheeses to try. Bad Axe. Gamonedo. (I have yet to find either.) But I will tell you this: it’s a pleasure to go back in time and relive first impressions – the first bite of Moses Sleeper, the first whiff of Comte: like nutty brown sugar – gorgeous, perfect, no ragged edge.
So now that I am 3 dog-eared notebooks deep, allow me to nudge you, Lover of Cheeses, Dreamer of the Golden Dream. When you shop for school supplies, pick up a small notebook to carry in your sock or back pocket. Why?
You can write down all your cheese desires. Then, when you go to the store and you can’t for-the-life-of-you recall whether you ate Boursin or Burrata at your cousin’s bat mitzvah, you’ll only have to flip open your little Bible.
You can scribble notes at the cheese counter. Cheese counters should have scratch paper. The mongers always have great tips for pairings and sometimes tell scandalous stories that are worth recording for later histrionics. Won’t you be a clever fly on the wall with your new Moleskine?
You will develop a glittering palate. Cheese can seem daunting, but if you begin to describe flavors on paper you’ll begin to recognize certain qualities that reappear – like grassiness or peanutty tastes. Soon, you’ll see that these flavors are distinct to certain cheese styles.
You can read aloud from your cheese notebook at poetry readings. Let me give you an example: Tuma Di Fobello, smells meat lockery and ripe. Looks vaguely leopard print. A real fly magnet.
You’ll make fabulous friends. A cheese notebook leads to tastings. Tastings lead to cheese parties. Cheese parties draw Europeans. Europeans bring great cheese, and the beastly cycle continues.
Best of all, you can tell others that you are writing a memoir. Some people need a farm in Africa. Others need sad divorces in order to eat, pray, love. A good cheese is all the journey you need. Let’s remember that. Say it after me. Now write it down.