Say cheese, elegantly

They can tell you about torment. They can describe frustrating hours sitting in dark, stinky basements, pen in hand, trying to get the flow of the words just right.

They can tell you, too, about how it feels to be engulfed in a blaze of inspiration. They'll describe the delirium of bliss when the right lines come. Like all writers, they are keenly aware of the competition, and envy eats away at them when they detect, in one of their comrades, a candle-flicker of genius.

We speak, naturally, of cheesemongers.

The people who sell cheese arguably deserve a place of recognition alongside poets and playwrights, folk singers and indie screenwriters. In case you haven't noticed, some of the most amusing writing is being produced in the service of cheese.

Consider, Martin Johnson, 52, who manages the cheese, charcuterie and other treats at Gastronomie 491, New York. Look into the display case that Johnson oversees there. So many cheeses, so many names.

"Adelegger," Johnson said. "Does that really mean anything to you?" Well, no.

Johnson conveys the flavour on a small sign in that display case: "Just think of a scene in a movie where the lead actress, obviously one of the greats, turns around slowly and walks away from the camera taking your entire attention with her."

Johnson's labels have a following, in part because they practically dare you to suss out the allusions he is dropping. For Calcagno, he has opted for rock 'n' roll: "Big and floral in the very best way possible, this firm Sardinian sheep has the cool unaffected strut of Mick in his prime, Lou in middle age or Polly Jean today."

So far Johnson has not had to provide anyone with explanatory footnotes.

Johnson is just one of many skilled cheese wits around.

... contd.

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