Cheese and Collaboration

This was us yesterday. Well, by “us,” I mean the people I depend on. Hunter (left) is my mentor. He knows everything there is to know about cheese. Zeke (middle) is my mouth. He always knows what I want to eat next and how to pair it with something perfect. And Emilio (right) is the magic wand. He comes through the door with enthusiasm and contacts, ready to help make things happen.

This is the brain trust behind the cheese book I’m working on.

I’ve never collaborated on a book before. What I’ve always liked about writing is the solitude it affords me. Solitude is hard to come by. When I write, I leave the ground, enter space, find peace. So writing with others is a new thing. Even if I’m mostly the pen, I depend on the Mentor, the Mouth, and the Magic Wand to feed me ideas and look over my shoulder. I feel kind of like a kid learning to ride a bike, with three uncles saying, “Go, kid, go!”

Yesterday was the first time we sat down at a table and ate a meal together. It felt like such a treat. Emilio made me laugh when he told us how he never eats lunch — “just a coffee, maybe a few crackers.” He doesn’t have time, he says, even though he lives in the Kingdom of Cheese. Somehow I always pictured him like King Tut with baskets of food all around.

I realized that just because we all work around food doesn’t mean we take time to serve ourselves. I also realized that in our fervor to pull this book together, we haven’t really taken the time to celebrate. These guys have taught me to appreciate cheese, but yesterday I really stopped to appreciate them. They work long hours. They spend most of their day serving others — not just customers but cheesemakers, farmers, bottlers, pickle vendors.

I’m happy to be one of those others. And I’ve been grateful to learn something about collaboration — that it’s really about appreciating the people you work with. Their passion. Their willingness to answer endless emails. Their ability to make time for big stuff (like book proposals) and little stuff (like sitting down to some sandwiches at Sabrina’s). It makes me look at other collaborative book projects and wonder how many sandwiches were involved.

Days to deadline: 15


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