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Back to Cheese Basics

Make no mistake, I love artisan and farmstead cheeses! The cheese industry has been my chosen career choice for a decade thus far and I am passionate about all things cheese and cheese-related. I adore a wheel of Epoisses and always appreciate it when my boyfriend manages to come home with a new cheese that I have somehow overlooked ordering at the cheese counter. However, I can also appreciate a good basic cheese. 

First though, a dirty little secret about myself: I didn’t always love and adore cheese! I know, it’s shocking. I remember my job interview at Sendik’s Food Markets for a cheese associate position as if it were yesterday and not a decade ago. The question was, “Do you like cheese?” I responded with, “Not really, but don’t I just need to cut and wrap it?”


Pleasant Ridge Reserve | Photo Credit: Image courtesy of Uplands

I really just needed a job to get through college. However, my manager was so enthusiastic and passionate that I couldn’t help, but start trying new things. We started with the basic cheeses and my palette started to blossom! I moved from sharp cheddar to aged goudas to some of the best cheeses in the world like Pleasant Ridge Reserve. I ate imported bries and started to enjoy the tanginess of a good chevre. 

Soon I was studying cheese books as much as psychology books and I loved every minute of it. I loved every minute of it then, and I still love it now. It is why I took on the position of cheese department manager. I couldn’t bear the thought of my manager’s, now my mentor’s, hard work falling into a stranger’s hands. This is how I ‘fell’ into the role of cheese manager and I am grateful every day that I get to go to ‘work’ and tell the stories of our local cheeses, as well as the rich histories of our imported cheeses.

Anyhow, back to the reason I still sometimes go ‘back to basics’ when selecting cheeses. First, we all comfort eat at some point in our lives. Believe me, I appreciate a good, gooey brownie, but the ultimate comfort food that takes me right back to 5 yrs old at the lunch table with my mom is grilled cheese. I know, you are thinking, but she just said she hated cheese early on in life?!? Like a typical kid, I hated cheese in any other form, except melted. I loved grilled cheese sandwiches between 2 slices of white bread and slathered in butter. I still occasionally make a grilled cheese like this when I am super stressed (like the holidays in retail) or getting sick. It is instant comfort and it brings back a wealth of happy memories!


Photo Credit: Image courtesy of thecookingmom.com


Another reason to go back to basics is that when you put a gourmet cheese tray together for a mixed crowd sometimes it’s useful to put a basic cheese amongst your gourmet cheeses. Not everyone in the group will necessarily be a turophile (cheese connoisseur), and sometimes kids may be at a party. Keep in mind that a cheese which more people are familiar with provides a comparison point for them to explore the other cheeses on the plate. It serves as a reference point. Many customers at my cheese counter over the past 10 years have been eased from a basic cheese like sharp cheddar slowly into cheeses such as Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Explorateur, Aged Goudas, and many, many more choices. 

My goal in my career is to help people expand their horizons when it comes to cheese tastings, and to help them see just how amazing cheese really is. I love to share the stories behind every bite of cheese and I hope to truly delve in and help myself as well as other come to understand how so many of the cheeses out there have come to be. And by the way if you really just like a regular, old cheddar or some pepper jack that is okay with me too, and I am happy to help you select the highest quality one I can! 


Cheese meant for biting!

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Photo Credit: Featured image of cheese platter courtesy of shutterstock.com

Crystal Schroeder

Crystal Schroeder is what her friends and family like to call the “accidental” cheesemonger. She'd really love to say that her Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology helps every day within her chosen career, but psychology has become her hobby and cheese has become her passion. For the last ten years at Sendik's Market in Wisconsin Crystal has loved being able to share the stories behind different types of cheese. Crystal loves how when you cut open a cheese and taste it you're transported to a different place, you taste the terroir, imagine pairing possibilities, and turn them into reality. Follow her @WICheese_Diva

37 thoughts on “Back to Cheese Basics”

  1. Avatar Karen says:

    Crystal always has a fun story to share about cheese. She has a great follow, make sure to stop by Sendik’s Food Market in Mequon and pay her a visit!!

  2. Avatar Bree says:

    Couldn’t imagine a life without cheese. Great job on your job.

  3. Avatar Jackie says:

    What cheeses are good choices for fondue? Just fot one for my birthday.

  4. Avatar Mike Magic says:

    My favorite cheese is provolone. What is the difference between that cheese and mozzarella?

  5. Avatar Ruby says:

    How is cheddar made sharper?

  6. Avatar Reese says:

    In Weight Watchers, cheese is high in points. Are there some low points cheeses?

  7. Avatar Lola says:

    I love dipping grilled cheese in ketchup. It’s tomatoes and cheese.

  8. Avatar Victor says:

    I loved reading this very informative article. I can tell you like your job.

  9. Avatar Grant says:

    Great blog! Makes me hungry.

  10. Avatar Heather says:

    What cheeses would work best with homemade mac and cheese in the crock pot?

  11. Avatar Maggie says:

    Those bacon Ritz crackers that someone’s boyfriend left at my house would go really well witha nice slice of Pepper Jack.

  12. Avatar John Smith says:

    Brick cheese on rye bread makes for a yummy variation on grilled cheese.

  13. Avatar jen wright says:

    Love it!! Great story. Makes me want to grab my weyauwega star dairy 😉 colby and chow down

  14. Avatar Erin says:

    Great story! I love your passion and knowledge! It’s contagious!

  15. Avatar Dan says:

    Wow, I learned something new today. I don’t cook much, but I can share this with my wife.

  16. Avatar Kristine says:

    I love the basic cheeses!

  17. Avatar Baxter says:

    Very informative, thank you for sharing your knowledge on the subject.

  18. Avatar Natalie says:

    My favorite cheese is colby and colby jack. My mom and I cut it into cubes and spear them with fruits like strawberries, grapes, and cantaloupe. It’s very pretty to look at and yummy to eat!

  19. Avatar Dave says:

    It was a great idea to include hyperlinks in your blog. Helps the reader to gain more detailed information about a topic.

  20. Avatar Jolynn says:

    I love expanding my vocabulary. Thanks for the new word, “Turophile.” I’ll be sure to try and use it at my next game of Scrabble.

  21. Avatar Karyn says:

    Love it! I’ve found the kids will eat almost any cheese at least once as long as it is presented properly (not with a “you probably won’t like this” disclaimer) – plus if the weirder (or in my opinion, more delicious) cheeses are on the same platter as a “safe” cheese kids may be more willing to just have a taste.

  22. Avatar Barb says:

    Grilled cheese and tomato soup, one of my husband’s favorites. That would make a great supper tonight.

  23. Avatar Brittany says:

    Nothing like a delicious grilled cheese to take you back to your childhood. Yum!

  24. Avatar Darci says:

    Grilled cheese is certainly one of my favorite comfort foods among with a really good tomato basil soup. I have even started to experiment with other cheeses in making the traditional grilled cheese even better.

  25. Avatar susan says:

    Well I agree with what you said, I think we have made my little girl a cheese connoisseur already !!!

  26. Avatar Mary says:

    Good to hear that all cheese lovers aren’t so high brow! I often get a little intimidated at my local cheese counter because I feel silly asking about something as fundamental as basic cheeses!

  27. Avatar The Chip Team says:

    Knowing the basics of cheese can help liven up any meal that you make. Great job Crystal.

  28. Avatar Sarah says:

    Great read! Always nice to hear of someone coming around to the world of cheese!

  29. Avatar ashley says:

    I’m still in the basic cheeses, but your methods for expanding have helped a little!

  30. Avatar Renee says:

    Great idea for using basic cheese on a cheese plate. There are kids at our holiday events so I am going to keep that in mind!

  31. Now I can try something new with grilled cheese.

  32. Avatar Nicole says:

    I enjoyed reading your story about how you got started in the business. I also never thought to put a basic cheese with the more refined cheeses to get people to try “new ones”. Thanks

  33. Avatar Bob says:

    Love the story of how you fell in love with cheese after disliking it so much! Thanks for sharing!

  34. Avatar Nicole Simonson says:

    Very interesting. Thank you for sharing.

  35. Avatar Jim says:

    Makes me want a classic grilled cheese with tomato soup!

  36. Avatar Carrie says:

    Grate read! [Pun completely intended] Thanks for sharing you story.

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