Although my affection for cheese has become somewhat of an ongoing joke with those who know me, I can’t express with enough sincerity the important role that cheese vendors have played in my life since moving overseas. In the Netherlands my first official friend (he might say acquaintance, but any man who has access to that much cheese is more than that to me) was the vendor at our local cheese store. He taught me my first Dutch words, let me sample and discover the subtle differences between Goudas, and commiserated with me over the trials and tribulations of marrying a Canadian (his being from Quebec made his situation even more difficult in comparison to my Manitoban). As the months passed, I became a regular and Meneer Cheese knew my order (English cheddar, belegen Gouda and 500 grams of chocolate covered raisins) before I even uttered a word. He greeted us in Dutch, related to us in English, and was a crucial part of that ‘community’ feeling you get when you’ve truly settled in somewhere.
Flash forward to now. What Crimmitschau lacks in a quaint cheese store it makes up with a cheese TRUCK that pulls into the main square and each and every Wednesday and every third Saturday, tempting me with stinky Frenches, unfamiliar Germans and comforting Dutch favorites. In contrast to the cheese man, the cheese woman would not be described as friendly or welcoming. In fact I would use words more like ‘stern’ or ‘uninviting’ or ‘bitchy’. She finds me (and everyone else) annoying and her position high up in the cheese truck gives me the feeling of inferiority as she waits (impatiently) for me to look over the plethora. Nonetheless, she now recognizes me enough to know what I want, my chunk of Parmesean and my slice of alt Gouda (yes, I’ve take my Gouda up a notch). She did her usual huffing and sighing (eye-rolling included) as I used my best (horrific) German to ask for a taste, to indicate how much I wanted (a lot), and to ask for my change. I spoke the universal language of cheese and smiled at her gratefully as I walked away with my weekly fix.
And then it happened. As I sat reading in the square, enjoying my other vice (tea) and reading, I felt a tap on my shoulder. As I looked up, it was Frau Cheese, passing by on her break. She smiled (warmly) and waved (cordially) as she continued by. My jaw dropped, but my Midwestern reflexes didn’t fail me (they rarely do) and I politely waved back.
Dave: Who was that?
me: The cheese lady.
Dave: Wow, she really warmed up to you.
me: We both love cheese.
That’s it, I’m in. Two years running, my cheese vendor loves me. Frau Cheese might not have the hearty laugh and kind smile of Meneer Cheese, but she saw in me the true passion for cheese that only a woman who spends her days standing in the back of a truck filled with cheese can understand.