“How do you remember the tastes of all of these cheeses?” A customer said to me one day.
And this got me to thinking – How does a cheesemonger remember all of the cheeses that are in the case
The shop I work in has around 300 cheeses. When I began working I have to admit that I didn’t know where – or how – to begin. I started by trying cheeses I had never seen before and those that I’d always wanted to try and others still that looked interesting or had intriguing descriptions. However, I just wasn’t retaining all of the the cheese-taste connections in my memory. A few exceptionally delicious ones did stay glued in my head, but many others unstuck before the shift was over.
My cheesemonger companions gave me some excellent advice – which was to select a few cheeses from a major cheese category (soft, semi-soft, firm, blue-veined, and fresh) and taste them. Compare them to one another – is one more grassy or citrusy than the other? Does one have a creamier texture while one more dense and fudgy? Once you develop a good foundation, you can begin creating your own categories – perhaps by trying various goat tommes or only cheeses from Spain. Approaching cheese tasting in this manner will help you better remember the names and tastes of the cheeses you try, learn what types of cheeses you like (or don’t like,) and the diversity of flavors within any one category of cheese and you will begin to have the confidence to navigate yourself around the cheese counter.
And as always, you can always ask advice from your cheesemonger!