My first job working with food was at a wonderful kitchen and delicatessen in Edinburgh called Appetite Direct. The deli/shop has closed since I worked there, but Appetite continue to do award-winning event catering. I learned so much, guided generously by colleagues who had the patience to teach me about the food we were serving. It was always delicious and always interesting.
While I was working there we began a modest cheese counter, selling a small selection of artisanal cheeses including Colston Bassett Stilton, Berkswell, Langres and Montgomery Cheddar. One of my particular favourites was a delicious Gruyère, which redefined my thin concept of cheese for good. I came to think that this Gruyère was one of the most superior cheeses in the world (which it probably was) and that I was one of the most clued-up cheese vendors in the world.
At some point following the inauguration of the Cheese Counter I visited Borough Market while in London and came across the Borough Cheese Co. stall, where they sell Comte which they've picked up from the Alps (I imagine in a small van) and offer tiny cubes of it for tasters. I tried a tiny cube, and with appropriate authority said, "is this Gruyere?"
"It's Comte," the stall holder replied. I had never heard of Comte, so I suggested, again, that I thought it was Gruyère. The man insisted. After uttering one last assertion, under my breath, that this was probably Gruyère, I left feeling suspicious, a bit embarrassed, and a bit impressed by the man's robust knowledge of large, round Alpine cheese.
I was reminded of all this as an example of how not to learn about things. I so easily think I'm an expert. I'm trying to do this less, since I really only ever have a tiny amount of knowledge regarding Pizza Crust or How To Cook New Potatoes or Which Part Of A Pig Is The Loin or What's In Gin or This Coffee Tastes Of Apples or just Gruyère. And the world is too interesting to think we could simply one day alight at expertise. I just made a batch of jam from plums which Luke and I foraged- pure, wild, forage-y expertise right up until the point I burnt the whole batch and it now tastes of the top of a creme brûlée.
The experts probably don't think of themselves as experts. Whatever you do, watch out when heating jam!
In other news...
Come to a market and say hi and have some pizza! Not long before sweetcorn, Berkswell, burrata and red onion is back on the menu. Looking forward to that one. Last while of courgette and Rosary with cherry toms. Don't miss it!