Breaking Radio Silence

Posted on May 25, 2009

Please forgive me for such a lengthy pause since my last post.

I’ve been on a fairly predictable schedule for the past month, and each week gets a little more manageable time wise. The joy in doing this for a living has not fallen off a bit.

As the cheese got closer to ripeness, however, the fear demons began to get the better of me. I did my best to keep expectations low, but with so much time and energy invested, naturally I wanted good results and acceptance.

I tasted the first batch by myself on Wednesday. I bought some crackers and a few granny smith apples, then climbed the stairs to my apartment with equal measures of excitement and dread. The moment of truth had arrived.

Only, in a way, it hadn’t. The cheese, to me, tasted delicious. I knew the smell, texture and appearance were on, and the aftertaste lingered forever, another good sign. But my objectivity was completely suspect. You might as well have asked me if I think my daughters are beautiful. This brought on a flurry of anxiety. I called a few friends to “talk me down” (thanks, by the way, Mike, Bud & Art).

I couldn’t stop thinking about the taste throughout Thursday. That night, I had more cheese, this time with a serviceable Merlot. Again, a pleasant experience. I found myself wanting more, which I took as a good sign, but, still the nerves jangled.

On Friday, I brought some cheese over to my friends Jules and Mike. Jules has a palate I trust, so on pins and needles I unwrapped a ripe round of Bent River.

She tasted carefully, and pronounced the cheese very good. This brought me relief and pleasure. I was ready for the next step, having a professional cheese buyer sample my wares.

So, on Saturday, I herded Alex and Mari into the car with a cooler full of cheese, Minneapolis bound. We visited Surdyck’s and Premier Cheese. Ken Liss, the proprietor of Premier wasted no time cutting into a round. He deliberated for what seemed an hour before pronouncing the cheese “fresh and good”. He was enthusiastic enough to invite me up for a cheesemaker event sometime in the future. The girls and I left the shop heady and full of smiles. We celebrated with a nice lunch across the street at the Edina Grill, basking in the sun on more than one level.

The final hurrah came this morning as I stopped at Cedar Summit to pick up milk for todays make. I sauntered up to the Minar’s door, and Florence met me before I had a chance to knock. I passed over a few rounds of cheese and asked for her feedback when she had a chance. She mentioned that a friend from Italy and a chef were over, and they were excited to try the cheese. Gulp.

As I was pumping the milk into my vat, Dave came out of nowhere with a grin, punched me in the shoulder and said “You hit it!”; he had some of the cheese sliced up and passed it out to Cat and Jim, his co-workers. He said everyone in the house loved the cheese. I told him “You can’t make great cheese without great milk”, and we nodded one another a silent congratulation.

Fittingly, back to earth: after pumping the milk into the my vat and starting the pasteurization process, I went outside to clean the truck and locked myself out of the building. Landlord can’t find his key. It’s Memorial Day, no locksmith will pick up the phone. Heart racing.

It’s startling what a committed man with a hammer can do to a doorknob.

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