My talent for small talk (or lack thereof) consists mostly of my ability to talk about cheese. At parties, one of the most common questions that I get asked is ‘What’s your favorite cheese?’. For me, this question is the equivalent of asking a parent which one of their children is their favorite—it is just not possible to choose (unless my mom has been lying to me all of these years?). Instead of answering, I usually ask people what their favorite cheese is, something that actually helps me gain a lot of insight in to what sort of person I’m talking to. Every once in a while I end up with some interesting answers that shape my future relationship with the person.
Once, at a party, my friends introduced me to a guy who worked at Murrays, a prestigious cheese store in New York City, citing our shared interest. He was pretty cute, so we started talking about what cheeses he liked, my main metric for deciding if someone is date-worthy. When he told me that he only liked ‘mild cheeses’, I immediately started looking for a way out of the conversation. A cheese aficionado who limited himself to mild cheeses was not my idea of a good date!*
I know someone who purports to only like French cheeses, because there is no way that Americans could ever master the art of cheese making like the French have—a silly idea that attests to his extreme Francophilia. He also scoffs at the idea that cheddar could ever be a worthwhile cheese; he’s someone who has ‘taste’ in cheese, but who doesn’t really taste it. I take this as a challenge, though, because all he needs is a taste of Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Holland Family Farms Gouda, or LaClare Farms chevre, and he’ll be a convert!
Most of the time, though, people tell me that they like brie or camembert, or maybe even name a local cheese if they’re adventurous cheese eaters. And although a person’s favorite cheese can say a lot about them, most of the time people I meet haven’t discovered their favorite yet, which means I get to suggest a new cheese—my favorite conversation topic!
*(Don’t worry, I gave him another chance-he started tasting more flavorful cheeses and liked them, and we’ve been eating stinky cheese together for 6 months now!)