Cheese of the Month-beginnings
- jpr54_1 Mar 5, 2013 07:42 AM
Why hasn't cheesemaestro/ daveMP given guidance for new topic?
There was a lot of discussion here on how the cheese would be chosen: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/891996 and it looks like Veggo just jumped in with a Writer's Choice to get things started as we were already in March and he didn't want to lose a month, but that doesn't mean the project as a whole can't choose communal list or voting for future months. It looks like Monthly and Communal List were the most popular options in that vote. That discussion is probably better to go back to that thread, though, rather than starting anew here.
I imagine a bit of structure will shake out as people get more into the project and used to what 'usually' happens in these threads, but I think any contribution you want to make is going to be accepted quite happily.
I know though, as someone who is new to cheese, it may feel intimidating to jump in and share your impressions. "What if I'm doing this wrong?" dances through my head on a regular basis with stuff like this. Perhaps if one of our more expert cheese tasters posted an outline of what tasting notes for cheese would look like, that would help the newcomers to cheese have a framework for making their comments.
Not being an expert, at all, I do want to join in and post on this because while I like cheese, I pretty much eat only the supermarket basics like brie and cheddar. Fancy for me is the occasional manchego. I haven't gone out to buy a Taleggio yet, but I think when I post, I'd aim to share where I bought it, what I paid, anything the cheesemonger told me about the cheese, a picture of it, and a brief description of the smell, taste and texture.
Hi Jacq. In fairness to jpr54, even those of us not capable of the willies as Melanie put it, I think having some next step to a survey about a new idea on Site Topic was the small issue. Did the idea have a final result after the OP asked for votes/ideas, not really. And, typically new projects are given a formal greenlight. So when Veggo made a suggestion, I encouraged him to pop over and begin the 1st thread for a Cheese of the Month I encouraged him....for lack of a greenlight. However, voting as is being asked about now was one of the OP's suggestions and those responding to the "survey" did vote in that direction.
The 1st thread is going really well but I can understand why jpr54 is asking.
I wasn't trying to shut him down, HillJ -- I was genuinely asking the question of what kind of guidance he's looking for.
We kickstarted the Dish of the Month, but other ongoing projects like Cookbook of the Month and What's For Dinner and the like have been done without any official sign-off. We try to stay out of the way as much as we can and let the group decide on its own what it wants to do.
No I didn't think you were. Since I'm the pinhead that encouraged Veggo, I thought I would say so. I thought jpr54 was very clear in the OP about what he/she was looking for.
You stayed out of the way but the OP was written by a CH that contributes greatly to the Cheese board. I thought the point of his survey was to take charge of the new project getting off the ground via survey results. The Cheese project didn't really have a group...yet. Just folks responding to an idea.
Did I have the wrong impression?
From your post here, sounds like you're doing all the right things for getting started in learning more about cheese. Doing some reading, finding a good cheesemonger, and asking questions... and the most important thing, start tasting.
One of the things that comes into play with whatever cheese is selected for cheese of the month (day, week, fortnight) or dish of the month, etc. will be local availability. Since it sounds like you're headed to the cheese shop, I suggest that with the guidance of the staff and the personal preference you've expressed for goat cheese, gouda and mozzarella, buy a selection that has some contrasts in age, milk source, or what you taste there that is interesting to YOU.
Then come back to the Cheese board and start a thread about the cheese that you have at hand with what you've learned and what else it is that you would like to know. Group discussion need not be limited to just one cheese a month. For some people, it's become apparent that initiating new threads seems to give them the willies. If that's the case, then maybe buy the cheeses that are being discussed right now. Such as:
Springtime - Loire Valley fresh goat cheese
St Angel triple creme
Or purchase a selection of mozzarella --- buffalo milk, burrata, smoked mozzarella, Polly-O --- and jump into this discussion,
And don't forget to buy some taleggio. :)
I suppose it's time for me to say something. When I started the poll re: Cheese of the Month (ChOTM), I deliberately refrained from stating my own preferences, so as not to influence others. Pollsters don't normally give their own opinions. Now that we have a consensus on having these threads monthly, with the list of cheeses developed communally, I can say that my responses would have been YES, EVERY TWO WEEKS, COMMUNAL. My reason for more frequent threads is based on the sheer number of cheeses that could be discussed. However, the group has spoken and we are going with the majority.
To be perfectly honest, I had mixed feelings about ChOTM's debut. On the one hand, it was good to get the ball rolling, and I certainly have no quarrel with Veggo's choice of Taleggio. On the other hand, we started out by not following the majority's desire to have cheeses for ChOTM selected communally.
Jpr54's question about the structure of ChOTM is a good one. If this is going to be a regular feature of the Cheese Board, then there has to be a process in place to ensure that it happens. I recommend the following:
- We need to start a nomination thread this month to identify cheeses that will be ChOTM in future months. We should have similar threads every six to 12 months.
- There should be a coordinator of ChOTM, a Chowhound who ensure that things take place on schedule. That could be me, but doesn't have to be.
- The coordinator is not necessarily the person who starts each month's thread. I think it would be better to rotate this responsibility. Obviously, the person who begins a particular month's thread needs to know something about the cheese in question.
- There should be a standard format for the title of each ChOTM thread, to set it off from other threads on the board, for example: CHEESE OF THE MONTH (MARCH 2013): TALEGGIO (all caps).
- Ideally, there would a "sticky" on other boards (Home Cooking and General Chowhounding) to alert people to the thread on the Cheese Board and provide the link to it. Also, it would be good to have a way to collect ChOTM threads, so that readers can easily find the links to past threads in one place. We'll need a little help from the mods to get these tasks accomplished.
- As for the threads themselves, I suggest that each thread start with some basic information on the designated cheese: what type it is, where it comes from, basic flavor profile, etc. This wasn't done for Taleggio, but I will shortly put this information in its thread, as an example of what I mean.
Other thoughts on structure?
Cheesemaestro, you know so much more about cheese than most of us do that frankly it's intimidating.
Be careful, please, with your replies -- remember that while some of us like cheese a whole lot, our knowledge base isn't that of a professional cheesemonger.
I mean this as truly constructive criticism -- I'm not trying to be snarky or nasty, but I've noticed a tendency here.
I started a thread about a cheese that I discovered and really liked...and while you apologized and the thread staggered along for a few days, your first reply was pretty heavy-handed, and put a rather large damper on my desire to start such a thread again.
Veggo jumps in with both feet and starts a Hey, Look what a great cheese I found thread, and while you have no quarrel with Veggo's choice, you find a lot of fault with having gone ahead without a vote and without having all the technical details about the cheese.
Gently....slowly....be careful not to quash the butterfly before it ever takes flight.
I hope you take this with the genuine good will with which it's intended. This has the makings of a great board...but like all new creations, it needs some gentle TLC to make it thrive.
I'm not trying to "quash the butterfly." I was simply being honest. It was the will of the majority that the cheeses discussed in ChOTM be chosen communally. I found it a bit odd that, having just made that decision, we deviated from it immediately. Beyond that, I do appreciate the effort taken to get ChOTM off and running.
As for my cheese knowledge, I can't not have it. I don't know how we deal with the issue of intimidation. We are not a monolithic group. It's true that there are some people who don't know a lot about cheese, but are interested in learning more. They, however, are not everyone here. There are other people participating who have worked with cheese professionally, as well as aficionados who have, through their own interests, acquired familiarity over time with a wide variety of cheeses. Beyond this, we have people who:
- Live in "cheese heaven" cities like New York and San Francisco and who have access to multiple cheese shops and hundreds of different cheeses.
- Live in "cheese deserts" and have to travel far to find good cheeses or resort to mail ordering.
- Can afford to buy the most expensive cheeses (and do) and people whose means are more modest.
- Have had the good fortune (or have it now) to live in other countries and experience cheeses that we don't get in North America. On the flip side, US and Canadian cheeses are mostly unavailable outside of their countries of origin, which leaves Europeans, Asians, Australians, etc. out of the loop if we discuss these cheeses.
- Are interested in the technical details of particular cheeses, cheesemaking, etc. and people who are not.
- Don't like whole categories of cheeses (like blues or goat cheeses) and people with eclectic tastes.
Given all this, it is unreasonable to expect everyone to find every thread and every post on the Cheese Board of equal interest and utility. The hope is that each person will find at least some topics here of interest, and often enough to keep them coming back. If the level of discussion hews always to the esoteric, to be sure, some people will lose interest, but the reverse is also true. If we never get beyond the basics, other people will be dissatisfied.
If people think I'm intimidating, I'm willing to take more of a back seat role. Please let me know how you think I can best contribute to ChOTM and to the Board as a whole.
Maybe as a point of reference, I never take part on a monthly basis on COTM. But I've cooked from some of the books and adore reading the wonderful descriptions and techniques that the "big dogs" talk about. I'm not in their league but I'm better because of them. I think the cheese convos can be the same way. And, as Melanie said, you don't have to be part of the Cheese of the Month convo. You can taste what you want and have available and post about it. I've asked some amazingly lame questions over my few years here and don't get taken to task very often :) Just my two cents.
Thanks for posting all of this, cheesemaestro. I'm happy to work with you and others to help this project succeed.
The only thing I have any objection to here is the way we structure the title of these discussions. We'd like the name of the cheese to come first in the title...followed by "Cheese of the Month (Mar 2013). Furthermore, it should not be in all-caps. It should fit a format of:
Tallegio: Cheese of the Month (Mar 2013)
I'm happy to discuss this further with you (or anyone who is interested) off of Site Talk to explain the reasoning here, but essentially it boils down to the fact that discussions on Chowhound are going to show up in search results for years, and are likely to be read by many people who may not participate or even know much about Chowhound. It's good to get the main topic communicated first....and the main topic is the cheese, not the project.
I'm working on the Sticky issues that have been discussed elsewhere. We can hopefully put up announcements on a variety of boards (certainly Cheese, and also probably Home Cooking, General Topics). We might not be able to do this right away, but it's something I am working on addressing and agree with you that this will be a good idea.
I like the other ideas you've outlined here. Speaking as the person who started DOTM on various boards, I think it is sometimes easier when the coordinator is also the person who starts the posts....though I agree that someone would ideally also post some basic info about the designated cheese in that initial post too.
Having a collection of Cheese of the Month discussions in a single place is also a good idea. We don't have a clear way to do that at the moment, but it's also something I can help you with and start looking into.
re: Dave MP
"Having a collection of Cheese of the Month discussions in a single place is also a good idea. We don't have a clear way to do that at the moment,"
There seems to be a need for a permanent reference page. There are so many gems which get lost in the shuffle over time. COTM, DOTM, Yosemite Sams Best of lists for Orlando, The LES tour for NYC, and many more.
Since searching remains tricky a spot with a quick description and links would be a tremendous resource for the site as a whole. Onsite bookmarking is not efficient enough to provide easy access either.
Need not be complicated - just follow the outline of how the boards are arranged. This could help people discover boards they had never seen!
Codified. Evolving. Yes.
I recognize that some need things laid out in black and white. And I know that I have an unusual capacity for working through the dimmest shades of gray, that's my M. O. So I'm not much help in codifying. But I am willing to try to push the process forward. Directionally correct is my simple goal, not the birth of Venus fully formed and perfect. Thanks for all you do!
"It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission."
We removed a few recent posts from this thread, since the back and forth got quite personal, but seems largely to have been based on some misunderstandings. We suspect everyone will feel better without having to re-read those posts.