1. Read Cheese Books While you are, of course, welcome to peruse my book about Pacific Northwest cheese, I'd suggest that you first take a look at a couple of really great, comprehensive books about cheese: Mastering Cheese by Max McCalman and Laura Werlin's Cheese Essentials by Laura Werlin. Both books are exceptional guides to cheese basics, covering all sorts of facts about styles of cheese, cheese producers and such. Armed with the information in either of these books, you will be well on your way to becoming a cheese knowledgeable person. Never again will you feel overwhelmed when approaching a cheese counter, never again will you just pick up the pasty French Brie from the refrigerated case because you are too afraid to ask about the luscious looking blue cheese behind the counter. It's time to move onward and upward!
2. Buy/Eat Cheese The cheese world is wide and huge and the sheer numbers of cheeses and volumes of information written about them can be a little bit daunting. But really, learning about and understanding cheese is just a matter of starting somewhere. Start eating cheese and keeping notes about your impressions on your iphone or in a notebook so you can remember which types and styles you liked and didn't like. Try cheese at different times of the year and note the differences. Try styles you're unfamiliar with or feel squeamish about. Talk to cheesemongers about what they like and why. Engage yourself and your palate....seriously, it's not going to happen any other way.
3. Keep Up With the Cheese World Many farmers and creameries have web sites - be they local, national or international producers - on which you can find out all sorts of information about the farm, the people and the cheese. Add yourself to the mailing lists of farmers, cheesemakers, local cheese shops, wineries and restaurants that are friends of cheese and pay attention to upcoming events, open houses and the like. Many cheese shops and retailers offer classes, which you will learn about because you are on their mailing lists. Go go go!
4. Cheese Events! In the Pacific Northwest, we are fortunate to be hosting the American Cheese Society conference in Seattle on August 25-28th. If ever there was a time to immerse yourself in all things cheese, this is it! Producers and retailers will be coming from all over the country to this event so look for lots going on all around Seattle and environs. Also coming up in 2010 is the Oregon Cheese Festival in Central Point, Oregon (March 20th) and the Seattle Cheese Festival (May 15-16th).
Follow these simple steps and at this time next year, you will have earned the right to be self satisfied about your newfound cheese knowledge. Better yet, you will be well on your way to becoming a cheese aficionado. Now -- go!