At the beginning of this month, I packed my car in California, ready for a week-long road trip—up to Oregon, through Wyoming, South Dakota, Ohio, New York—before my planned arrival in Boston, two days before the start of my internship with culture: the word on cheese.
Before driving off, I checked my email one last time: to make sure I didn’t imagine the culture internship existed in the first place (if we’re being honest, I checked culturecheesemag.com too, just to confirm it was a real website—again) and to make sure I did have a place to live in Boston (they actually said, “We want you to move in. Let us know when you’ll be arriving.”). Check. And still, I couldn’t shake a very strong is-this-real-feeling.
The emails and the bags and boxes of my life in my car confirmed it was real, and I was about to move to Boston to intern for the magazine I fell in love with back in Spring 2013 (a magazine with a grilled cheese sandwich on the cover! And a huge cheese centerfold! It was love at first sight). So, awkward feeling or not, we (me, my stuff, and my friend) left California on a road towards cheese!
The trip was complex and beautiful—full of natural wonder (Multnomah Falls in Oregon, Grand Teton in Wyoming, Badlands in South Dakota), great company (friends, family, animals) and of course, some road-sturdy cheese (Udderwise goat’s milk cheese in Idaho, Yellow House sheep’s milk cheese from Ohio, Cuba Cheese cheese curds from New York). It was a unique and surreal experience.
I pulled into Boston on schedule and began settling into to my new (almost equally surreal) life.
If I had to sum up my first week here, it would be with a (repeated) quote from culture’s own Grant Bradley, “It isn’t normally like this.”
I landed in the offices the week before counter culture, an educational event for the cheese industry, hosted by culture. On my first day, an enormous box of Beemster cheese was delivered. I thought it was the most cheese I would ever see in one box (I thought).
Over the next few days I watched more deliveries, more cheese, meetings, space planning, and scheduling logistics all in preparation for the first ever counter culture event. There was also a cheese tasting and a cider tasting. And somewhere in the midst of all that, I was learning the culture ways and how to write a cheese bite. I was writing, and my world was filling with cheese (read: awesome).
So, naturally (and happily) I offered my time for the counter culture event itself (read: more cheese).
Sunday came and oh.my.god. Cheese! That one box of Beemster I thought was enormous turned out to be only a tiny, tiny sliver of what was being prepped and served for the event. Coolers, boxes, tables, trays, and shelves were packed with cheeses, meats, and cheese-friendly foods.
The Food Loft was transforming into a cheese haven, complete with lecture hall, a “tasting lane,” and a lunchroom filled with pâté, charcuterie, bread, butter, spreads, and sandwiches. (When I heard of a place called “The Food Loft,” this is what I pictured anyway, so it really works out for me).
I dove in—prepping packets, plating pâté, stacking and serving cheeses. I watched cheesemakers, mongers, retailers, and distributors arrive. Then, as happens with most events, the day becomes a blur—there’s running, fetching, moving, helping, and then somehow, the day is wrapping up.
In that blur though, I was fortunate to taste nearly all of the cheeses, listen to bits and pieces of presentations, and talk with some of the presenters and attendees. Ah, and eat. I ate a lot.
At the end of the day I was exhausted, stuffed, covered in a film of cheese, and happier than I’ve been in a long time. Cheese people are fascinating and fantastic, and culture brings them together.
I know I have yet to see what culture is “normally” like, and I know there’s a lot more to do than cheese bites, but so far, I’m hooked.