Jenny Glazer is moving on from the Rainbow Cheese Department and it marks the end of an era. Not only is she one of my favorite people and a friend from before she started working at Rainbow, but she helped make our department what it is today.
First off, I should mention two other folks. We had such a solid core of people involved in transforming our cheese section from an afterthought to a destination that it seemed like nothing would ever disrupt it. Six of us worked for more than a decade together making all the decisions, doing most of the cutting, wrapping, and talking, generally figuring out from scratch what to do next. I do not want to make this a you-kids-get-off-my-lawn essay but things are easier to figure out now. The adversity of just trying to find accurate information on cheese bonded us together.
I still remember when the Cheese Primer came out. I hear it mocked now by newer cheese folks but it is impossible to overestimate how important that book was to so many cheese people at the time. Sure, it’s out of date and the American section, with the hindsight of all these years, is embarrassing in its brevity, but it was the only relevant cheese book published in the US in decades. It was pre-internet and we were starving for the information in there. I think we all bought copies the first week it was out. It encouraged us in our love of cheese and the feeling that we were accomplishing something.
Kelly Parrott was the first to leave. It was expected because she had been talking about moving back to Oregon for years. I should have written a tribute to her when she left because without her attention to detail, her task-masterness and her cheese experience from Natures (A Portland grocery bought by New Seasons) I am not sure we could have progressed so fast. Kelly, if you are reading this, know that we still talk about you and when wrapping especially pretty things often ask, “How would Kelly wrap this cheese?”
Anna Costa left us once when she decided to live in the North Bay and make cheese at Redwood Hill. She eventually came back though, and worked a few more years behind the counter before the wrapping got to her and she moved upstairs to HR and our Board of Directors (I still blame all those years of working at the burrito place, not the cheese 😉 ). I never wrote a tribute to her because she is still at Rainbow, still making it a better place every day. As for the cheese department, she brought her early FFA education and cheesemaking skills in addition to being pretty much the nicest person I have ever met in my life.
Jenny, moving to Pittsburgh, PA after 16 years at the store brought so much to the cheese that it is difficult to encapsulate it all in one blog entry. She had no previous cheese experience but she had more enthusiasm than anyone I can think of. She summed up the act of selling cheese in a up-from-hippie natural food store in the way I still think about it today. We are the permission department. Much of the rest of the store is about avoiding bad things and we are the ones who say, “Have something with tons of butterfat. Have something that tastes great just for the sake of eating something that tastes great!”
We often had the same brain about things. When one of us would propose something like keeping a cheese registry, the other would often say, “I was thinking of something like that too!” She was as committed to cooperative ideals as much as me and, even having worked at the store a long time was able to, be a bridge between new and older workers. She is a person who can always find common ground and, quite honestly, that ability is rare and will be next to impossible to replace.
Jenny’s love of sheep cheese is also something that will not be forgotten. Back in the day, around the time when Prince de Claverolle changed its name to Istara Ossau-Iraty, Jenny would sample out that cheese so much than when any customer came in saying that they tasted a sheep cheese and couldn’t remember the name we all knew exactly what it was. Jenny befriended customers and had a legion of regulars. They will be bereft without her.
Her descriptions were also unmatched. Long-time readers should know that she is the “Anarqueso” mentioned in my book who described peeling the paper off of Taleggio as “skinning the zombie.” Zombies weren’t even cool back then!
I will also miss her so much personally that I feel like I am still in denial. We’ve known each other close to 20 years and we’ve been able to share so many things in our lives. We can fight and get over it. We have seen each other at our worst. We have seen each other at our best and I think we were always, in the end, there for each other when we needed to be.
Goodbye Jenny. Mariah and Pete and I and all the “new” awesome folks will carry on what you helped start. I hope Pittsburgh is awesome!