When I’m not working on my own blog, I’m often reading the many other great cheese blogs that are out there. One of the best parts of the cheese world is the sense of community and sharing that I’ve found there, so in that spirit I thought I’d introduce my readers to a few of my fellow cheese scribes. First up is a Q&A exchange with Miss Cheesemonger (she’ll be posting an interview with me as well!)
Meet Vero Kherian, AKA Miss Cheesemonger, a lawyer-turned-cheese-evangelist, who combines an enthusiastic love of the curd with gorgeous photography to produce a must-read blog exploring the many facets of the cheese world. I crossed paths with Vero briefly at ACS 2014 in Sacramento, although as one of the ACS “Cheese Guard” volunteers she was in constant motion, transporting and prepping wheels and making sure the events ran like clockwork (not to mention taking part in cheese flash mobs), so we only got to chat briefly! I was able to talk to her in depth more recently, and had a few questions:
How did you get started in cheese? Do you remember the first cheese or cheese experience that ignited the passion?
I had always loved cheese and milk. When I was little, my school lunch consisted exclusively of cheese sandwiches (of the American cheese slice variety). Macaroni and cheese was the first dish I ever learned to prepare. It was a bit of an anomaly in my Vietnamese family, since most of them rarely ate dairy products. When I was in college, I majored in French, and studied in Aix-en-Provence, one of the best regions in the world for goat cheeses. There, I expanded my palate beyond supermarket “brie” just a little bit by eating fistfuls of faisselle, fresh chèvre, crottins, and unnamed local cheeses from the famed Aix-en-Provence farmers market, all washed down with local bread, produce, and navettes, or traditional boat-shaped cookies. After college, I spent a year teaching English to elementary school children in Normandy, France, dairy capital of the country. There, I really dug into the French country living. I could walk around the medieval moat that circled the town in about 20 minutes. Whenever I left the house, I even if it was to go jogging among the town’s expansive produce fields, someone would always recognize me. The weekly farmers market, which was almost like the town’s version of holding court, let everyone snag the latest gossip and local produce. And then, thanks to my now-mother-in-law’s Breton/Normand cuisine, I was immersed in the region’s famed butter and cream-laden cuisine.
Cheese didn’t enter my life seriously until after I graduated from law school in 2009. Back then, I fully intended to become a practicing attorney. I had taken the CA Bar exam, and was looking for entry-level legal work. It was a poor job market, though, and nothing turned up. After a few months of searching and growing increasingly frustrated from sitting around at home, I acted on an impulse to apply to work at a local cheese shop. I had always liked cheese, and was looking for a new creative and intellectual challenge. They hired me, and I started almost right away. It was like discovering Wonderland! I learned about so many cheeses, especially American ones. Before working at the shop, even after living in France, I didn’t fully understand the depth, complexity, and pleasure of food. That year was spent tasting as much cheese as possible, tasting as many wines and new recipes as possible (the cheese shop was also a wine bar and restaurant), and diving headfirst into the realm of pairings (part of my job was to create cheese plates for diners).
There was no turning back after that! Cheese had me in its talons. When I moved to San Francisco, I realized that I lived so close to many of the cheesemakers that I only knew through their cheeses. There was Bellwether Farms, Redwood Hill Farm, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese, and so much more. I knew I wanted to get involved with the community, so I joined the California Artisan Cheese Guild. I continued to blog about during my time working with the French-American business community and with my law practice. After a few years of that, though, the beckoning call of artisan cheese was pretty strong. I wanted to devote more time to cheese and food, and so I closed up the law practice to do that.
The blog started on a whim. The night before I started at my first cheese job, my husband and I set it up. I thought the blog would be a great way for me to document everything I knew I would learn, and to serve as a writing sample for any future jobs I held (I was still thinking “legal” at this point). But now, 5 years later, it has taken on a whole life of its own. I have been able to meet so many fascinating, friendly people and share their stories, thanks to Miss Cheesemonger, and can’t wait to see how the blog will keep evolving.