Trust and Figs
Did I tell you about how I chose my yoga studio? Mrs. Fussy was going to help me get into better physical shape, so she did some research on Yoga classes around the region that I might not hate.
There were a few different yoga studios that made the final list. And one was right next door to The Cheese Traveler. While I had some doubts about that particular class, I was able to put them aside in order to have another excuse to visit one of my favorite shops in the area.
As it turns out, I’m also really enjoying the class. While it may not feel all that physically demanding at the time, I find myself feeling the effects of the practice for days. But in a good way.
Not only that, but I’m getting to spend more time with Eric and his new monger Richard. And for someone who writes about food, just hanging out in the shop provides a treasure trove of inspiration about stories. Here’s one about figs, that I’ve been sitting on for weeks.
Fresh fig season is over. But when it was in full swing, The Cheese Traveler was putting fresh figs on a grilled cheese sandwich made with blue cheese and some kind of cured pork. The “Pig & Fig” still runs as a special, but now it’s made with a fig spread.
So a woman comes into the store, and she looks at the menu, and it turns out she’s never had a fresh fig in her entirely life. I suppose here in Albany, that’s not such a strange thing. Figs typically grow in warmer, mediterranean climates. In addition, fresh figs are fragile, so they are a challenge to ship. That said, I’ve been seeing more and more of them over the past few years, so they must have found a way to solve the distribution problem.
That’s exciting on it’s own, but this story is about the woman. Let’s call here Eve.
One of the signs of a good cheesemonger is that they will offer you tastes of almost anything before you buy it. There are some cheeses sold only in whole forms that are intensely difficult to effectively sample. I have a story from back in the California days where a cheesemonger made me taste the difference between the pitted olives I wanted and the ones that come with the pit still inside of them.
Eric, learning Eve had never had a fresh fig, offered her a taste. She demurred. But Eric gently asked her about her experience with figs, and explained the difference between fresh figs and dried figs. His enthusiasm must have been convincing, because Eve changed her mind and took the sample.
This was her first taste of a fresh fig. Ever. And I was there to witness it.
It dawned on me, that this kind of thing has to happen all the time in a great cheese shop. The mongers get to give people their first experiences with a variety of new foods.
Or if not entirely new foods, cheesemongers get to provide authentic versions of foodstuffs that people only think they have tasted. I’d love to be there when the cheddar lover, who is always on the search for the sharpest most flavorful version of the cheese, gets their first taste of a true clothbound English cheddar from Neal’s Yard.
If I didn’t like the Yelp gig so much, I would be tempted to throw my hat in the ring for the cheesemonger job at The Cheese Traveler. There’s a sign that’s been hanging in the window.
Surely, the job isn’t entirely feeding people mind-blowingly delicious things all day long. But that has to be one of the highlights.