Today I went to my local supermarket chain in order to purchase, among other things, a nice slice of Wensleydale cheese. As someone with a soft spot for cheese, (especially the northern English and Welsh cheeses — Caerphilly, Cheshire, all of which are uniquely crumbly, creamy and slightly bitter), I am delighted that Pittsburgh’s eponymous chain, Giant Eagle has in recent years expanded its cheese counter to appear far more cosmopolitan that it had previously been.
It used to be that if you wanted cheese, your only option was a plastic-wrapped rectangle of orange cheddar or Monterey Jack, or faux cheese from the deli, pre-sliced from great slabs. Now, the cheese counter is an island unto itself with employees dressed to look something like a fromage specialist in aprons and little hats.
But when I asked if they had any Wensleydale, the chap pointed to a grotesque wheel of tired looking cheese covered in spots which turned out to my horror to be Wensleydale with chocolate chips embedded in it. No wonder none of it had been sold. When I said no, just plain Wensleydale, he took me over to a cabinet with cheeses impregnated with all manner of unlikely things — mango bits, lemon bits, something green of indeterminate origin — and Wensleydale stuffed with cranberries. Again I made my plea for cheese accompanied by nothing but itself. A supervisor came over, in her apron and hat, and when asked, assured me in no uncertain terms that they haven’t carried Wensleydale for at least three years, that it is not possible to get anymore because it had been “discontinued.” Knowing this to be patently untrue, I challenged her. “Surely not?” I said, wondering if she was aware that two enormous hunks of the stuff, albeit adulterated with foreign objects, sat in her very aisles as we spoke. “Yes,” she said, confidently, “it wasn’t around long and they stopped making it.”
The good people of Hawes, Yorkshire, beg to differ
Seeing nothing could be gained from prolonging this astounding conversation, I went on my way, sans cheese. I did not, for example, point out that Wensleydale has been made since the 14th century, nor that it is Wallace’s (of Wallace and Grommit fame) favorite cheese. I did not point out that other Giant Eagle supermarkets carry Wensleydale cheese. I did not cause a scene. I will simply discontinue my patronage of their store.