Getting cultured in Chicago

Because I have the best boss in the whole world, I’ll be spending June 11-12 at Counter Culture Chicago, a cheese education experience put on by culture: the word on cheese.


I am a little nervous, excited to learn more about cheese mongering and cheese makers and holy cow two days in Chicago. Believe it or not, I almost said no.

Let me take a step back to talk about the Universe and me. She communicates very well; I just don’t always listen. And as a very wise woman once told me, when you don’t listen, the Universe pulls out a two-by-four.

The blows came in waves: layoff, divorce, the death of a close friend, business failure. I was working as a part-time grocery store cashier when a local merchant offered an opportunity to make a few extra bucks.

Slinging cheese felt like any other “temporary” retail job, the thing you do to pay the bills until you can work your way back onto your chosen career path. My lactose intolerance provided a bit of a challenge, but I had been introduced (at the very same cheese shop) to extra-aged and sheep’s milk cheeses. I also kept a close ear on our store manager, a true cheese educator, and our customers, who described flavors and textures as they savored samples.

Within a few months, I could talk about, slice, and wrap cheese, stumble through a pairing recommendation. But I never really considered myself a cheesemonger.

Saying “yes” to Counter Culture felt like choosing, like turning my back on 20 years in journalism and leaning into the next 20 years.

Given the current state of community news, this does seem like a more secure career path. Plus, there’s cheese.

I’ll be tweeting from Counter Culture. Follow @cheese4ewe and #counterculturechi.


Chicago skyline (