Tag Archives: cheesemonger — the book

Oh right, self promotion… I forgot

If anyone needs a book signed as a last minute perfect gift for someone, I will be working the counter today from 1-9, Sunday 9-1, and Monday 2-5. I will be there other times as well, but in less predictable ways.

There are some signed books on the shelves as well. They all say, “To my favorite customer…”


Book signing at ACS

I will be doing book signing from 10-10:30 Friday at the conference bookstore. I mean, I am willing to sign a book at ay time, but I will actually be sitting down, not distracted, and have a pen in my hands that specific half hour.

Come say hi!

Cheesemonger, Rent Control, and Rainbow

First off, I want to thank Bonnie at Bon Bouche for the awesome review. I am grateful for all the reviews of my book but when it’s reviewed as a work of memoir and food literature by someone in publishing, it’s always special.

I also got interviewed by the local website Haighteration. This was a victory because I managed to get Schnitzel and my cheese bookcase in the picture. Heh.

Finally, Rainbow had a small feature in the Chron. (Check out the video. I’m in it for about 1 second)

Co-op Conference Keynote (Yes, people were clothed)

When I started working on my book in earnest, I had to focus. I resigned my position on the BOD of NoBAWC, encouraged other folks to run for the planning board of the regional and national co-op conferences, and helped recruit other folks to travel for out of town co-op events. Basically, I stopped doing pretty much all outside-the-store work to help the worker co-op movement.

So, to reward me for this, after my book came out they asked me to do a keynote address at the Western Worker Co-op Conference this year.

Now, to be clear, this keynote address is unpaid and, as opposed to regular book events which usually cost me half a day’s pay minus royalties on any books sold, (to be paid approximately nine months later) this event is in rural Oregon and cost me three days pay minus books sold. Of course I said yes. Heck, I figured I owed everyone.

Because of scheduling issues, the conference had a keynote on Monday night and on Tuesday morning. Rosalinda Guillen of Community to Community Development started things off on Monday night with a powerful talk about the realities of the lives of farmworkers, their extremely early death rates, and the possibilities of making connections between urban co-ops and the people who do the hardest work in the process of creating food. She has been helping to organize farmworker co-ops in Washington State.

It was then that I realized what my role in the conference was. It was my job to lower the bar. I started my keynote with something like, “We heard a powerful talk by Rosalinda Guillen last night. She talked of a lifetime of organizing to keep farmers from dying early deaths and showed pictures of children working in the fields. But hey, I wrote a book about cheese. Look at me!” People could move on to their workshops a little less intimidated after I was done.

Because this wasn’t a cheese conference or a bookstore crowd, I realized a few days before the conference that I needed to write a whole new talk for this event. I focused on co-opy things: that in the editing process, the most red-lined thing in my original manuscript was changing all the “we”s to “I”s; the irony of being on the cover of my book after working for 15 years to collectively build our cheese department to be one of the best in the country; the way the my co-op help me build the knowledge that I needed to have to write this book as well as being encouraging to me fulfilling an outside-of-work goal. Indeed, I do think that co-ops, being democratic entities, are uniquely placed to support both people’s workplace development, and their goals outside of the workplace. It’s one of the reasons I’ve worked at one for 17 and a half years.

Hey, look. An artist and co-oper named Eris Weaver did this awesome graphic recording of my talk:

co-op keynote

I didn’t talk about cheese very much at all (though three other co-op cheese buyers and one ex-member of the Red Star Cheese Collective were in attendance) but people seemed happy. After my keynote I went down to the river and collapsed in exhaustion, only moving in the next couple of hours to turn pages in my book and swat away horseflies. That was pretty awesome.

Cheese on the Street

My San Francisco book release party was over a year ago, but remnants of the evening remain.

While looking at Flickr cheese photos, I found this portrait of a cheese left over from the reading. Abandoned on Valencia, the picture is certainly evocative. A sad, neglected cheese, used and discarded, all alone and alienated in an overcrowded city.

Late Night Mission Cheese (Photo by Jutta, click through for lots of awesome pics)

I’m glad I could help contribute to the urban art world and the ongoing story of the struggle of cheese to come of age in the Mission.

My year of self-promotion (part 3)

So, I miscounted. I actually did 34 events. Sheesh, just reading this list makes me tired.

20. 6/8 Alexander Books, SF I will fully admit that I don’t get downtown much. Alexander Books does lunchtime reading downtown and I never knew it until they asked me to read. A great, interested crowd materialized out of nowhere and disappeared just as fast at the end. A great way to spend a lunch break

21. 6/11 Readers Books, Sonoma What a beautiful place to read. Outdoors right off the town square. This is a great little bookstore and a very food-knowledgeable crowd. And, since it was in the North Bay, friends of my parents showed up.

22. 6/23 Get Lost Travel Bookstore, SF Another place I read at that later went out of business. The owner was a regular customer for years and this was one of my favorite bookstores in SF. I never missed a visit to Get Lost before I went anywhere on vacation. Lee’s partner got a job in another state that he couldn’t turn down so it’s understandable why they closed up shop. But they are very much missed. Get Lost was one of my favorite things in San Francisco.

23. 7/12 18 Reasons, SF with Laura Werlin Great little space for food talk Doing an event with Laura was fun. Our different styles worked together well and we had fabulous cheese.

24. 8/2 Encuentro Café, Oakland Very crowded and I kept it short because people were hungry. They made an amazing glossy, color poster for the event. This place is part-owned by a co-worker’s wife and a bunch of Rainbow workers who live in the East Bay showed up. Encuentro is a terrific veggie restaurant and wine bar and after I was done some folks called me over to talk about vegan cheese.

25. 8/24 Calf and the Kid, Seattle, WA OMG, my ears popped on the airplane so I couldn’t hear, I was snotty from judging 100 cheeses during the day, and the restaurant next to the cheese shop had their music on way loud, but this was an awesome event at an awesome shop. Up the Cheese punks!

26. 8/26 American Cheese Society Conference, Seattle Usually these kinds of sit down signings suck, but this was completely rewarding. It was great to be in a crowd of peers who (at least the ones who approached me) appreciated my book. If my book had been unpopular here, I would have considered it a failure. Satisfying and fun!

27. 9/18 Skylight Books, Los Angeles I fell in love with this bookstore. I wanna write another book just so I can read there again. Hopefully this time my car won’t die on my way home. Oh, and reading in front of a stack of Ellroy’s new book was hilariously ironic.
skylight books readings

28. 10/7 Litquake at Book Passage, SF I’ll be honest, I didn’t sell many books here, but I had an awesome time. It was a crowd that cared deeply about writing and food and who laughed at all the right parts of my reading. Litquake is really a fun thing to participate in because it really does bring out the book lovers.

29. 10/23 Cheese Plus, SF Back behind a table trying not to take things personally. At least I got to hang out with Sasha Davies for a couple of hours. The Cheese Plus events are really fun places to be, I wish we could do these kinds of things at Rainbow, but we just have a pee-soaked alley, not a busy pedestrian street.

30. 11/2 SF Public Library RADAR Reading Series This was me, Novella Carpenter, Dori Midnight, and Chelsea Rae Klein and woah, what a packed house and diverse readers/artists. My only reading that included queer goth cemetery porn on the bill. Probably the youngest crowd I read to (my crowds were usually 35-50 years old I would guess). I had to explain what Reagan Cheese was and break the news that the Frugal Gourmet was likely a child molester.

31. 11/7 Pt. Reyes Books Pt. Reyes, CA I got to share the reading with Jill from Pt Reyes Farmstead Cheese and I think we encouraged each other to tell cheese gossip in public. I won’t repeat it here, but the folks who were there enjoyed it for sure.

32. 11/12 Oakland Museum of California (Lonely Planet), Oakland I got to sample out cheese and work with my old buddy (and co-worker) Rana. They made awesome trip itineraries for local cheesemaker visiting. The bookstore there is fabulous and the crowd that attends these free Friday night events is full of real people. I would do another event here in a second.

33. 12/18 Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, SF Ha. I actually did a book signing at the store. I had meant to do a reading at some point but we don’t have a good space for it. It was really weird standing behind a table at the store and not selling cheese. Still, it was a good thing even if I did get a little mocked by co-workers. My book made a great holiday gift!

34. 12/12 18 Reasons Book Club, SF I was honored when 18 Reasons made my book their book for December. The folks there all had read it and had interesting questions. It was a real treat to do this kind of event where people already know your book. I would love to do more of this in the future because it was a lot less answering of questions I get at work (“What’s the best way to store cheese?” was asked at every event) and more about themes in the book. A wonderful experience.

The only problem with all these events was that Schnitzel didn’t like that I was away so much:
Everyon'e a critic!

My year of self-promotion (Part 1)

One of the biggest problems last year was not having enough time. I was working full time and promoting the book (plus being in a serious relationship and getting a puppy) and I just had no time to write. This year will be different. While I will do an occasional promotional event (and definitely hit the Midwest and New York) I am going to be working on a new book. Still working out the details (and the contract) but I am super excited to be spending time writing instead of self-promoting.

I did 32 events last year. 32! And I am not including interviews or radio in that count either. While I didn’t get rich on the book,* I hadn’t expected to. It was successful beyond, well, maybe not my wildest dreams,** but certainly my pretty enthusiastic ones.

(photo by the awesome Myleen Hollero)

Because I deleted my events after they happened, I am going to list them all here so I don’t forget them as years go by. Feel free to skip these, but thanks to everyone who helped me get the word out about my book.

1. 2/20 Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference, Sonoma, CA My book came out early so I managed to premiere the book at my buddy Sheana’s yearly conference. I can’t think of a more appropriate place!

2. 2/20 Cheese Plus, SF Technically this was still a part of the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference but it was at Ray’s store in San Francisco. Let the standing-around-behind-my-book humbling begin. Ari from Zingerman’s and I actually switched places and tried to sell each other’s books for awhile.

3. 2/25 Books Inc., Berkeley Calvin, the Berkeley Store manager, was incredibly supportive of my book. In fact, he had booked an event for it when it was supposed to come out on a different press in 2009 so I figured I owed him the first bookstore gig since he had to track me down to find out the book wasn’t coming out back then (my old press wasn’t returning phone calls). The Berkeley Books Inc. is really becoming a food book destination in the East Bay.

Plus, they made a home-made punk poster for my reading!
books inc flyer

4. 3/13 Modern Times/Amnesia, SF My first SF reading was sponsored by a co-op at the bar where I did most of my drinking in the early ‘90s. I saw some great bands there (The Fastbacks, Bratmobile, Tribe 8, Harris Flush etc.) here and I could barely believe I was on the same stage. This was an amazing experience. Look at the packed crowd!

5. 3/14 Book Passage, Corte Madera A hometown bookstore in the mall that used to have the Food Co-op back in the ‘70s. My parents invited all the parents of people I went to high school with so it was an odd, yet awesome, crowd. We even had two Seana/Sheanas serving cheese!

6. 3/20 Oregon Cheese Fest, Central Point, OR I thought this would be more stand-behind-copies-of-my-book-and-be-humiliated-while-no-one-cares but I underestimated the drunkenness of the participants and the sales pitch of the lovely Laurie Jones Neighbors. This event stood out for the two drunkies who insisted they knew how publishing worked and that I must have had the book ghostwritten.

7. 3/21 Reading Frenzy, Portland, OR I knew I loved Chloe and her fabulous store. I didn’t realize how awesome the Ace Hotel would be. I accidently read the paragraph about growing up Californian that I was going to omit when reading to Oregonians, oh well. Luckily, many of them were transplants. I totally cut myself while preparing cheese but managed not to bleed on the cheese or books.

8. 3/28 California Artisan Cheese Festival, Petaluma, CA Oh, the humbling of the behind-the-table book signing returns.

*I only put that in here for the non-writers. Anyone who’s published a book already knows I didn’t get rich from it.
**Wildest dreams redacted to keep this a family friendly post.

(Tomorrow: April and May)

Patricia Unterman likes my book

I almost didn’t want to link this because it gives me way too much credit at the expense of my cheese co-workers.* But any praise from a well-known food writer that says, “Rainbow Grocery, the worker-owned, natural foods supermarket, currently has the best cheese department in San Francisco, taking into consideration range, price and quality,” is something that should get out there. Especially from a writer who once compared shopping in our store to shopping in the Soviet Union.* 😉

*Without the work of Mariah, Jenny, Pete, Anna, Kelly, Pat, and D’louie during the transition years from the old store to the new one, no one would be talking about our cheese department and I certainly wouldn’t have had a book on cheese published.
**It’s true though, that at least one old Russian lady has fled the store when the found out it was a collective.
*** The comparison was in here, but she was actually saying how much more she liked the store at our current location

Cheesemonger in Los Angeles

For the longest time, I couldn’t decide whether to drive or fly to Los Angeles for my reading at Skylight Books. Flying is a little quicker, but I’d need a car down there. Flying would be easier on my body, but my ears are still a little messed up from my last flights. Finally, I decided that since I was bringing cheese, I should just drive so I could bring my whole cheese-party-at-the-bookstore kit, including tiles and my full set of cheese knives. L.A. always appreciates a big show.

Skylight Books is awesome. I’d visited a couple of used bookstores in LA, but never had the opportunity to go to a new one. James Ellroy called it the best bookstore on the West Coast. Really, he told me that last night. But that’s another story. I walked around the store with the happiness one can only find in a well-stocked bookstore that cares about the written word.

Look at all these awesome books that I’m surrounded by*:
skylight books readings

The reading was great. My x-country driving buddy Anna was there. Lots of old friends — who now live in SoCal — were there, lots of Internet folks who I’d never met were there, even my sister and brother-in-law were there! Contrary to the popular image people might have eaten more cheese at this reading than any other I had brought cheese to. Go L.A.!

I had planned to say something about LA while I had the mic. I usually talk about the cities I’m in. In Mendo I talked about my co-worker Anna buying her first book at the bookstore I was doing my reading. In Seattle I talked about the Rainbow Grocery that they used to have. In Portland I talked about how happy I was to be at an institution like Reading Frenzy.

But it’s so fraught when you’re from the Bay Area. You see, we have a rivalry with LA that LA doesn’t know about. I feel like I’ve outgrown it — I really enjoy visiting LA – but it was certainly in the air (or perhaps the water**) growing up and I had to unlearn it. And really, it isn’t that LA doesn’t know about it. It’s that they don’t participate in it and kind of laugh it off… which is of course far worse!

I was gonna do the reverse, I’m-from-Northern-California-and-don’t-hate-LA thing, but in the end I decided it was a no-win thing and left it out. When I told my LA friends afterwards they agreed with tired eyes. “Everyone does that,” they said.

Anyways, the reading was great, the Skylight staff was awesome, and Anna and I eschewed the trendy new restaurants and went to the House of Pies for dinner. I had a club sandwich and a chocolate chip cheesecake. Not very foodie of me, I know…

Then on the way to my sister’s my car broke down and I ended up on the side of a deserted part of Sunset Blvd for about an hour waiting for a tow truck. I’m back in SF and my car is in LA. If I was a real blogger, I would have taken a photo of my car with the hood up, but I didn’t think about it. It would have made a poignant picture.

*Hey, who’s going to see Danbert Nobacon at the Marina Books Inc? 9/28. The most anarchists in the Marina since the “Celebration of Slaughter” back in 1991!
**oops, I couldn’t help myself. I’m a backslider.

Driving and Bellingham

After Seattle was Bellingham. The bookstore was fascinated hear me boasting of traveling with two coolers of cheese. They ever had me write a blog post about it. For anyone else who may be interested, here was my set-up:

Driving position. Wearing my Gits sweatshirt in honor of Seattle.

Big ass cooler, cheese knives, cheese bag. Unfortunately I had to take the little cooler out of the way to capture the majesty of the big Rainbow cooler (checked out of the store for a week)

Here’s a peek inside the cooler. This was on the way to the Seattle reading with pre-prepped cheese in tubs and decorative pieces (also useful as bribes) of Black Butte Reserve, Cocoa Cardona, and Gran Canaria. Ice was a constant issue.

The Bellingham reading was good, but – if I had to grade myself – was probably the one I was most exhausted for. My old high school friend couldn’t make it, but I did get to hang out with my Sister-in-Law’s sisters for beer and pizza afterwards. The crowd was artificially bulked up by a creative writing class from the local college and friends of my high school friend. A couple of people brought their cute dogs. It was sponsored by the local co-op, but no one identified themselves if they were there. Co-op people, don’t be shy!

I forgot to take a picture of the cheese for the second reading in a row. Spoiler alert: I would never remember even though it was the main reason I brought a camera.