One of the things that I always struggle with when traveling is meeting other cheesemongers. This sounds funny, but it’s true. Cheesemakers are no problem. I call ahead, schedule an appointment, take no for an answer if it’s a bad time and we’re good. But mongers are harder to crack.
I’m sure people feel the same way about me too. I am only on a regular floor shift two days a week these days, spending the rest of my time in the cooler, upstairs doing invoices and reports, or around the store doing other co-opy things. People have sent me emails that they visited the store and didn’t see me to which I usually respond, “Did you ask the other cheese workers if I was in?” Usually the answer is no. I think there’s a mutual respect of not wanting to get in another monger’s way or take up too much of their time but I am almost always happy to meet other cheese folks.
One problem is that when I am traveling, I am not usually buying anything. I usually do not have access to refrigeration so if I am not buying a cheese plate for a friend I just want to say hi and talk cheese. Is a cheese social call how mongers want to spend their day? It’s unclear. How do you know if the person behind the counter, if there even is a counter, shares that passion?
With cheesemakers I can call ahead but mongers do not usually get to know each other if we are not in the same region. Often I will be wandering the aisles of a grocery store sneaking peeks at the cheese people, feeling anxious about saying hello. It is always awkward at first when I do reach out. I think I am just not doing it right.
But often the response I get is this:
So, mongers, how do you like to be approached? Do you like out-of-town cheeseheads saying hello? Personally, if someone says they sell cheese, I ply them with samples of local goodies they cannot get back home. Maybe that’s just me. 😉
I love meeting other mongers, and when traveling, I always make a point of finding the local cheese shops to seek out new fun goodies.
Me too. But it is so hit and miss if I don’t already know the person behind the counter.
uhhhhg i always felt so weird about this. i usually didn’t say anything when i was at someone else’s counter, and would reach out via the internets or some such thing later on. BUT now that i’m in distribution, i can always expect grumpy face, which makes it all so much easier!
Ha. Have I given you that face? Yeah, I probably have…
I almost always want to meet other mongers! I say introduce yourself, where you work, and then ask what their favorite local cheese is. Otherwise you get that awkward moment after telling them where you work where they might be thinking, “And I care because…” 🙂 It just depends on the monger and the mood/amount of customers in the store at the moment.
That’s a really good idea. I often compliment their cases but there are so many ways that can be taken wrong. And yeah, I never approach folks when there are lines, just not worth it.
Funny, I thought y’all just used the secret monger handshake… 🙂 As a writer, I always feel a bit stalkerish when I walk into a new shop. If it’s a small one where the owner is the one we “know” via twitter it’s one thing, but the average monger I assume just thinks we’re crazy. Sometimes one gets excited to try and stump us with a cheese we haven’t had yet, though, which is always fun.
A secret handshake is an awesome idea. Of course, for food safety reasons it could not involve the actual shaking of hands. Maybe a spin-off of the food prep elbow bump?
I’m always thrilled to meet other cheese involved folks, but as a buyer with all the ordering and receiving and invoices and meeting etc my day is packed at certain times. Were you to come to pittsburgh, and you probably should, a little heads up so I could clear some time in the schedule would be wonderful. That way I could make some space (and maybe use it as a good excuse to get out of a co-opy meeting I didn’t feel like going to)
Oh I hear ya. I have had to say I couldn’t come down for drop-ins before, especially when I was on the BOD at Rainbow. 99% of the time I can make time but not always. The thing is that it is usually more of a problem when I just drop into a store that I’ve never heard of and their cheese looks great.
I feel a bit odd at times, too. Particularly if it’s a shop I don’t know and don’t know anyone at. Reading above comment, maybe we *should* have a secret monger handshake or like a gang sign to flash! Sometimes if I tell someone I work at a cheese shop, I get a shrug or a “ah, ok…” Anytime folks come up to my counter, I always try to engage and find out where, how long they’ve been at it, etc. Out here I’ve encountered a lot of folks flexing their fromage muscles to impress friends… and also have people swing by and if I’m not on the floor they don’t want to bug me. Or my team doesn’t want to bug me as we have so many cold calling vendors and want-to-be vendors that it’s almost an automatic response to just take notes and tell me later. mongers and cheesemakers I always have time for though!
You totally hit on the part I forgot to include in this post. The problem with approaching folks is that their response can run the gamut of “Why should I care?” to “I don’t get paid to hear how great you are.” A lot plays into that: one’s approach, the worker’s mood, the store’s management environment, etc.
In SoCal years ago I told the person at a grocery store that one of their cheeses was labeled wrong (it was) and they just gave me a “fuck you” look and walked into the back. I don’t bother doing that anymore. But I think it was my fault for not engaging them first and also not taking into account their position in the food chain at that particular workplace.
Whether I’m doing invoices, ordering, ad planning or anything else, I’ve always got time to chat with anyone interested in cheese no matter whether they’re a cheesemaker, customer or fellow monger. It’s one of my favourite parts of the job so I always make time for it. Like you, I would love the opportunity to share some local cheeses with a visiting cheesemonger! Come visit! (Kitchener, Ontario..Canada)
That said, I often feel awkward when I visit cheese shops where I don’t know the cheesemonger. I’m afraid that when they find out that I sell cheese too they’ll think I’m snooping or checking out the competition.
I haven’t been to Ontario in years! Maybe the 1988 anarchist gathering was the last time…
I love meeting other mongers. There aren’t many near me. Whenever anyone visits, if I know ahead of time I like to do have them as “a guest monger,” so folks in Albany can see that there is a community of us and that we love what we do, and have our own styles. I’m pretty busy, but to me this is one of the most important things. If any of you are in Albany, NY let me know.
Well, you are the “Cheese Traveler”. I would love to guest monger somewhere. That would be totally fun. Great idea.
Pingback: Secret Handshake | Gordon ("Zola") Edgar