When I committed to judging and doing a panel at ACS, I didn’t really map out the timeline in my head. Here was my schedule for the first few days of ACS:
Monday: Get to SFO at 5:30 AM, Arrive North Carolina 5:30 PM, eat BBQ and try to fall asleep early. Succeeded on the eating, failed on the sleeping.
Tuesday: Meet for judging at 7:30 AM East Coast Time (4:30 my time), judge for 8 hours tasting 50 or so cheeses, drive (thanks again Tim Gaddis and family!) 45 minutes to cheesemonger party (Thanks Alexander Kast and family!). Get drunk, but not enough to be hung over for:
Wednesday: Meet for judging at 8 AM, judge 50 cheeses plus taste another 100 to decide on Best of Show. Find out winners at 7 PM then immediately go to dinner meeting with Debra Dickerson and Jeanne Rodier to discuss panel. Go back to my room and scribble notes until well after midnight.**
Thursday: Do panel at 10 AM to a packed house (because retailers came out in droves for the certification test this year) and collapse into a little puddle.
The best part of this is that I really didn’t have time to get nervous about my panel. When I moderated a panel in Chicago, I was a nervous wreck for days; here I was only a mess for one night!
Our panel was called “Handling Cheese in a Retail Environment” and very quickly I realized the confusion between what we had prepared for and what was expected from the audience. The main theme running the entire conference was food safety. Between the implementation of the Food Modernization and Security Act and the increased enforcement and inspection of creameries and stores there was a lot to talk about and many panels discussing those head on. We were planning a talk on cheese quality, not the legal intricacies of water content and recorded accountability trails, so things went a little off the rails.
Then one of the things that make the ACS great happened. Oh, there’s a question about storage temperatures and the water level of cheese? Oh, let’s call on one of the two dairy scientists who authored the definitive paper on that subject* because she just happens to be in the room. Awesome.
Until I went to the annual business meeting at lunch where these was a remembrance of Daphne Zepos, I had no idea that our moderator was going to be delivering a eulogy to one of her best friends in front of about a thousand people mere minutes after our panel was finished. My hat’s off to Debra because I could not have done that myself. The memorial, and the announcement of the Daphne Zepos Teaching Award, was incredibly moving. Surely not as intimate as the memorial at the Cheese School, but there were few dry eyes in the house, even among the folks who never met her.
*”Storage Temperatures Necessary to Maintain Cheese Safety”, JAY RUSSELL BISHOP and MARIANNE SMUKOWSKI, Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, University of Wisconsin, 2006.
**I didn’t even have enough time to make the Culture Magazine event that I really wanted to go to!