Opinion

From the Inbox of a Mid-Level Journalist: Cheese

Being a mid-level journalist and blogger is a special kind of adventure. Every day, as you head to your computer to open your inbox, you ponder what emails await you there. One day, you may receive an email from an artist whose medium is cat hair! The next day, a press invitation to Art Basel! And the next, a press release about Kraft Zesty dressing! It’s like Christmas (or your winter gift-centered holiday of choice) every day.

In my first post of this completely irregular series, I responded to the people who had the good sense to write me about a new campaign for Kraft Zesty dressing. The sender of this next gem must have been reading, and she must have noticed how much I like food. In fact, she must have hired an intern to do some extra Facebook stalking research, because the subject here is one my favorite foods and general things in life: cheese.

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Dear __________ [name redacted],

Historically, almost all of my family vacations have involved car trips. To pass the time, my siblings and I would often play games in the back seat, including that one where you clap and snap and say rhythmically, “Concentration. Are you ready? If so, let’s go. Starting with names of … ” And this one time, the “names of” was “cheese”! And then we went around and rattled off the names of different cheeses, and since my family really likes cheese, it went on for a long time.

What had never occurred to me before your email, however, was the possibility of cheese as an artistic medium. It’s quite brilliant, really. Sure, I had heard about and seen some food art, but those were more interactive performances involving food — usually the eating of it. I did not know that one could “set a Guinness World Record for making art out of cheese,” as apparently Sarah Kaufmann, aka the Cheese Lady, has.

Left: the Cheese Lady with her Wisconsin roller coaster; right: a 40-pound high-heeled shoe that she carved from cheese
Left, the Cheese Lady with her Wisconsin roller coaster (is she wearing a cheese hat?), and right, a 40-pound high-heeled shoe that she carved from cheese

You write that Kaufmann set that record for her 925-pound cheese roller coaster created on site at the Wisconsin State Fair. I can’t help but wonder what drives someone to such ends. Dogged ambition and persistence? A single-minded belief in the power of dairy? Lactose intolerance? Hey, everyone in this world has a dream. Who am I to judge someone else’s?

You also say that Kaufmann — I’m sorry, the Cheese Lady — only works with American-made cheeses, and that while she carves, she “educates and informs her audience about the art and traditions of cheesemaking.” I admire that kind of patriotism — it seems she and I are agreed that cheese will one day become the backbone of a revived American economy.

In the meantime, I don’t think an article about the Cheese Lady will suffice to capture the true spirit of her work. So I’m thinking I’ll organize a massive gala and invite the entire New York and Los Angeles art worlds (between you and me, I know pretty much everyone) — but instead of having the gala inside a hotel or an abandoned factory, we’ll have it inside a commissioned cheese sculpture that looks like an abandoned factory. And then, of course, we’ll eat all the cheese, and since it’ll be so big, we’ll probably also need a cheese vomitorium. Do you think she can pull that off? It would be just the thing.

Xo,

Jillian

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