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Ruminations: Daddy’s Gruyère

Illustration of a wedding cake made of cheese with bride and groom toppers

A week after my fiancé and I announced our engagement to our friends and families, I called my dad to ask him an important question.

“Will you make the cheese for my wedding?”

“Of course,” he answered. Then, after a pause, “I was already planning on it.”

To call my dad a home cheesemaker is to severely misrepresent his depth of passion for something that has become far more than a mere hobby. The man graduated from fresh cheeses to fanaticism long ago. He reads cheesemaking books the way most people read novels and has converted multiple refrigerators into cheese caves to age his growing collection of wheels. My dad often claims that he’s the inspiration for my working at culture, but in truth, it’s really a chicken-and-egg scenario. Yes, he started making cheese before I was hired. But I’m the one who sent him the cheesemaking kit that set off his obsession in the first place.

Once my dad agreed to make cheese, there was a lot to decide right away. We needed to finalize our guest list early, because Dad wanted to make aged cheeses as well as fresh. In fact, he had made one wheel of Gruyère before I even asked him to make cheese; he started 9½ months before our wedding, the day he returned home after we announced our engagement.

My fiancé and I also needed to find a caterer willing to allow homemade cheese – from my dad’s un-FDA-inspected kitchen – to be served as part of the spread at our reception. While this was tough, our final outcome made the effort well worth it. When my fiancé delivered the giant box of cheeses to our caterer the day before our wedding, the chef literally danced with excitement.

Because our guest list and much of our menu had to be settled so early, we actually enjoyed a long calm period in the middle of our relatively short engagement (November to September) when nothing needed to be done. Meanwhile, across the country, my dad was carefully scrubbing and turning wheels of cheese each day, and making more every few months. He’d send me updates:

“Below is the cheese inventory as it currently stands. Check marks indicate cheeses already made.”

“Attached are some suggestions for cheese descriptions. Feel free to edit them any way you like.”

Finally, it was time to ship 25 pounds (a whopping ¹/3 pound – or more than 5 ounces – of cheese per person!) from my dad’s apartment in California to our place in Massachusetts. Dad called me for the two-day forecast each morning until we found a couple of days that would be cool and overcast. He emailed me the tracking number so I could claim, unpack, and refrigerate the precious cargo as soon as it arrived. Would it be mangled? Melted?

The day of our wedding was beautiful. We were married by a friend under a tree outside a historic home in Belmont, Mass., in a quiet, simple ceremony. Once we exchanged rings, our guests were shepherded to a shaded porch, where tables were laden with appetizers. The centerpiece was a magnificent display of my dad’s cheese – all of which had survived the journey intact. Emmentaler, Gruyère, Stilton, Saint André. A blue Colby and a Morbier with a line of ash running down the middle. Two fresh chèvres, one covered in crushed peppercorns, the other in chai.

I’m not sure how many of the caterer’s appetizers were taken back to the kitchen, but I know that not a bite of cheese remained to clear away.

Amy Scheuerman

Amy Scheuerman—culture's former web director—spent eight years in North Carolina where she developed a love of barbecue and biscuits before moving up north to get a degree in nutrition. She now works at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.