The first cheese I remember was Teleme Jack. When I bought it after so many years at Rainbow Grocery in 2018, I learned again after so many years  turns out its a rather special cheese. still made by the same people in the same way...

My mother had cheese parties. This meant moving the tin pastry table that we used for dining in the kitchen to the living room and placing gooey french cheese on it. I didn't eat this. I liked quesadillas from Los Hermanos on Chestnut Street (they're still there too): cheese floating in a butter-soaked crispy tortilla.

The first time cheese itself got my attention was at the shop Say Cheese on Cole Street. The founders, a sweet gay couple as I recall, had hired my mother to do their launch and in gratitude invited her and the child for a cheese tasting. I don't remember the taste, but I remember the story. The same cheese made at three different elevations in the Alps, was three different cheeses. (The shop is still there, but quality has not survived the ownership transitions. Not a destination.)

Since cheese has now become one of the main focal points of my attention it seems fitting to try to remember them all and to document the cheeses.

I don't really remember much cheese between the first story and the second. Mom was eating Manchego. I was putting ricotta salata on pasta. I remember anxiously smuggling brie-de-meaux back to Los Angeles from Paris in 2005. Seemed like the thing to do, but I didn't like the cheese.

In 2006 Nicolas Beckman, picnic designer from La Brea Bakery, showed up at my underground restaurant, the viand, with cheeses and stories. I started buying cheese at La Brea along with bread. They sold Nieves (or Nieges?), a soft cheese with the look of a snow covered bush. I didn't see that cheese again until 2017 (and can't find it on the internet), in København's otherwise unremarkable Torvehallerne.

In Los Angeles, cheese was a staple item in our kitchen. We always bought the same ones. La Brea was just one stop on our Sunday marketing rounds. We also bought Los Angeles Buffalo Mozzarella from Gioia Cheese Co. when they had a small outlet downtown, a mild nutty pecorino (whose quality I have never quite found again) for pasta at the Bay Cities Deli, and supermild feta cheese from Mother's Kitchen, at the Hollywood farmers' market.

In 2008 we moved to Boston temporarily, into the culinary embrace of Formaggio's Kitchen. We shopped in the Cambridge store every week and subsisted mainly on cheese (as the farmers markets were woefully inadequate). At Formaggio's we learned that cheese had seasons and subtle quality. The shop sent its buyers to Europe to choose which wheels to bring back. They taught us that liking mild cheese didn't mean we had bad taste. In fact they learned our tastes and greeted us, calling across the shop as we entered, "I have something new for you."

Here we discovered Reypanaer (super aged Gouda that tasted to us like caramel, the first was 18month from Beemster), Regal de Bourgogne (soft fresh cow's milk cheese, covered in macerated raisins), and Barilotto, a buffalo cheese.

We also learned about charcuterie, even assembling a Salami Salad for Viand East Three.

On a trip to Philadelphia, at Claudio's, we discovered Fleur Vert, a flaky fresh goat cheese congruent to a standard American birthday cake covered with dry herbs and red peppercorns.

In Wellington NZ, no one wanted to talk about cheese, but we met the founders of Cleveland Valley Buffalo Mozzarella. Their story would be echoed by the founders of AusBuffStuff in Sydney. New Zealand and Australia have fledgling artisan cheese industries. There I discovered a new cheese, the "Welsh Miner's Cheese", Caerphilly, (made in by Mudgee/HighValley).  Pecora Dairy is the standout of the Pacific, with their Jamberoo Mountain Blue (even I could adore this Blue). I also begged them for the fresh mozzarella which had not yet become Mezza. In Sydney I also paid $90/kilo for Ubriaco and nearly that for Pennu Bu, a buffalo brie, at Formaggi Ocello.

When I first moved to Berlin in 2014 I was blessed to live near Südwind Feinkost, where I bought Fleur de Maquis, an aged reminder of Fleur Vert, which I like only at its freshest.

2015 was my first trip to Italy. At Roscioli Salumeria I met my first Caciocavallo, whose quality I have yet to find again despite tasting every one offered at the Salon del Gusto 2018. I also bought a lot of cheeses whose names I couldn't record at the wonderful Campagna Amica Market, Saturdays and Sundays near the Circo Massimo.

In 2015 and 2016 I visited Paris, munching the whole time on chunks of Mimolette, and discovered Taka & Vermo Fromaggiers. Of course I bought the youngest chevre they offered, so young it was barely able to stand up, and a remarkable rosemary-encrusted brebis.

2016 was my first visit to Neil's Yard Dairy in London. I realized this was a new level of cheese. I kept the receipt for Cornish Yarg, Beenleigh Blue, Cotherstone, and Berkswell. The next year I had their Caerphilly, but I don't have the receipt for that one.

2016 was also my first time at Cheese Berlin, where I met a cheese Tyri tou lakkou (cheese of the grave) from the Greek island, Serifos. The curators of Kafenion found only one man still making this cheese in the traditional way, wrapped in wine must, herbs, wine leaves, and placed in a hole 3m deep for 3 months.

I also met Mike, maker of Young Buck, and SouthPark-style hero of the resurgent terroiric Irish cheese movement. Young Buck is a blue, but when it's only one month old it's called Baby Buck. This chalky, fresh, delicious cheese won my heart, but it's a rarity. They rarely cut such young wheels and didn't bring it with them to 2017 or 2018 Cheese Berlin. In 2018 he told me that if I come to Belfast, he'll hook me up.

In 2016 We went to Amsterdam where I went to all the famous cheese shops and finally ended up at Eric's Delicatessen, buying a round-edged mini-wheel of smoked goat and the extraordinary cheeses of Remeker.

In late 2016 I moved to Mitte Berlin where I could shop regularly at the Slow Food store, Vom Einfachen das Gute. I struggle with their cheeses, but in 2017 they had Pecorino Canestrato which tasted like egg pasta and a super young one, Pecorino Subasio. I also found good cheeses at the locally-0wned BioDeli, including a fabulous deep orange Red Leicester. The neighborhood's butcher, Fleischhandlung, sells just a few cheeses, including an Italian Buffalo Camembert that changed my views on Camembert.

2017 Cheese Berlin: included Fresh sheep's cheese, Hirtenkäse, from Berit & Norbert Fischer and two special cheeses presented by the curator, Käse Kober from Besdorf: Mont Vully (by a Swiss ex-ementhaler maker, washed with wine in a black rind) and Kobunder Ziege (extra belegen goat gouda with a grey rind from the North of Holland).

In mid-2018 I was back at Eric's in Amsterdam, where I convinced them to let me try a cheese that they really didn't want to sell to a tourist, a special gouda whose rind is made of butter.

2018 was my first visit to north Italy. In Modena I finally discovered Parmiggiano Reggiano, prefering a non-DOP recommended by my friend. In Torino I bought a spectacular Toma from a farmer in the Porto Palazzo farmer's section. The standouts of the many many cheeses I tasted at my first Slow Food Salon del Gusto (click that for my full report) were a fresh cheese with honey made by I Segreti di Carla, and the Vacca Bianca young Parmigganos: Maggengo and Furmai from Caseificio Rosola.

My first visit to southern france was to Toulouse in 2018, where I found Graissette de Noel and a young mimolette, "Fermier Fleur" at Fromagier Betty. There I began the quest for "The Dutch Cheese".

Still savoring cheese from Modena in July and Turin in September, I found myself at Cheese Berlin 2018, where my new passion for Red Leicester was satisfied by Neil's Yard, and I met the young Utrecht dairy, Oudwijker, who uses Egyptian Water Buffalo to make the fresh Stella (although once I got their cheeses home they were all too strong for me). The Debbene Caseificio from Sardinia, whose many ages of smoked pecorino were lovely. (I bought the smoked ricotta.) And I met Tom Calver of Westcombe Cheddar, who promised to make me a Caerphilly...

Cheese is made by people.

I've now tried twice,  and I conclude that Australian oysters are superior to English ones,  giving AU its 2nd point against Europe .

It wasn't my  first trip to London but the first wasn't a fair test,  as the first was during Christmas week and everything was closed.  (Despite that handicap,  I discovered Ottolenghi a few hours before leaving,  and was forever changed by the revelation of white + wood.)

Pilgrimage obligations dispatched I went in search of a neighborhood to call home,  and more food.

I tried some classic British cuisine,  including  a very high quality scotch egg (didn't get it} and fried candy.  Impressed,  but then I love Oreo cookies under most conditions.

Spitalfields Artisan market has gone to the import darkside and I failed to avoid bad coffees along the way.

In fact the amount of money I spent on coffee during one week boggles the mind. Every cappuccino costs the same, just shy of  £3. But half are undrinkable.

The best was Monmouth Coffee,  with organic milk de rigeur.  And perfect Pastries.  And a luxuriously sensual and trusting retail environment.

And then I walked into Mecca (Neil’s Yard Dairy).  I had no idea what to expect from this store.  It was a mix of fish-shop washed floors and minimalist art gallery in which the cheese mongers' enthusiasm animated the air.  I tried to just look and not taste as I was trying still to enjoy the underwhelming vanilla donut I'd just eaten,  but they insisted,  further showing their love for the cheese with annoyance when I wouldn't eat the rind.
And those cheeses grew on me fast. They were so delicate! Each one had the names of the people who made it. They cut the cheese with a wire,  so they could sell tiny amounts ( rather then claiming the cheese can't be cut to a small piece and implying the customer is cheap, as they are wont to do in search of bigger sales at Formaggi Océllo).

And each cheese had the name of the people who  make it.  People,  making  cheese.

Is The Grounds of Alexandria overrated, or just overmarketed? We finally made it, after months of discussion. No coffee is worth a 20 minute wait, actually. The donuts were good, but nothing we saw justified the crowds, prices, or wait.

It's amazing how excited city people get about chickens. Then we saw the piglet. Ok, it's amazing how excited we got over a piglet, although he looked a bit lonely. The "farm" doesn't appear to be in use, with the vegetables planted as landscaping, and not appearing to be harvested. The outdoor seating area is pleasant but the mayhem indoors is not, and the food didn't appear to be worth the wait.

Big disappointment.

Until we wandered around the corner to  Salts, Meat, Cheese. The first and best thing to say about this warehouse market is that it's unpretentious. That's a big deal here in Sydney where there's more food hype than food. You can get some supergourmet things here, you can also get some lowbrow imports like Reece's Peanut Butter cups. There are expensive things and cheap things, and enough to look at and explore. Unlike the overpriced Gourmet Grocer in Balmain, prices are clearly marked.

Best of all, there's a happening in the far corner. At first it seems like a bar, with people waiting for attention. Then you realize it's 4 hot boys and a lot of meat. When it was our turn we announced our interest in pairing a cheese and ham for crepes. The relaxed and charming guy who helped us suggested asiago, but when we showed our interest in something else, went right off to get us a sample, and let us try several different proscuittos with it. When we ran out of cheese for the pairing, he got us more. We spent less than we expected, and had a great time. That's the kind of experience that will bring us back.

This market does not offer the level of cheese available at Formaggi Ocello, but the prices are about half. If you want good cheese to cook with, or for a big party, this market would be great. They also have a huge selection of imported dry pastas without jacking up the price like Crown Street Grocer does (and without the impossible wait for someone to ring you up and take your money).

They specialize in house-flavored salts, which are fun to smell and buy and eat.

I use to teach economics. Now I’m a professional artist and I teach. Often I spend 4 hours preparing a class that earns $50. My students can do the math. “What kind of an economist were you?”, they ask.

I spend my money at the farmers market, where I chat with the farmers and artisans. I especially like cheese, and was excited today to find a new vendor selling buffalo cheeses. Like many farmers at the market, he’s displaying a laminated newspaper article. His tells the story of a fire that destroyed the fencing around his new buffalo herd and how Ian Massingham (a septic tank salesman) and wife Kim spent days rounding up the animals. They’ve tried to source semen from Bulgaria, but the language barriers were preventative. Nevertheless they have bred and increased the herd.

As excited as me, talking rapidly and straining Ian’s capacity to have two conversations at once while dispensing tastes of his cheese, an Asian restaurateur is trying to organize enough supply to include the mozzarella in one of his salads. The cheesemaker is firm “I just can’t do that right now. We only have 24 buffalo.” And one of them is a bull.

The article explains that the couple are still working full time. I mention my friends Michael and Cressida McNamara selling their Pecora Dairy sheepsmilk cheese a few stalls down at the market. “She’s quit her job but he’s still working.” I remember that Cressida gets up at 4am to sell at one of the other markets and wonder how many slices of cheese do you have to sell standing in the rain so that one of you can quit your job? I'm pretty sure they're not doing this because they think it's going to be lucrative.

The new buffalo cheese company doesn’t have an urbane name like Pecora Dairy. They’re calling themselves AusBuff Stuff. The article explains that the couple went on a vacation to Italy, fell in love with cheese, and came back and bought a herd of buffalo. The same story as Richard and Helen Dorresteyn the owners of Clevedon Valley Buffalo Mozzarella. He was an electrician. Now with 200 buffalo they are one of the brightest lights in the fledgling New Zealand artisanal cheese scene.

Later, I go see Michael, intending to take home both sheep and buffalo mozzarella. He whispers to me. “I only brought my blue cheese today, no mozzarella, because I want the new buffalo guy to be successful.”

What kind of economist are you?

This is story is about falling in love with food. It’s about working for something because it’s beautiful, and hoping the money will be enough to keep doing it - a story that I keep running into while distractedly turning a corner. Mike Davis has written about the odd return of wildness to sterile urban ecosystems. (Ecology of Fear, 1999) This story is about the wild return of a romance with sensuality and craft in a world of information overload, where nothing seems to matter for very long, and everything can be had for $.99 from the iTunes store. It’s about a search for meaning in the money, connection in the contract.

Chad Robertson, award-winning artisan baker at Tartine in San Francisco, is a celebrity. He makes 175 loaves of bread a day, and sells out in 45 minutes. Do the math. In an interview with Bon Appétit he explains: “I wanted to do something with my hands.”