June of 2021 was the end of a Covid crazy school year. Before class could conclude, everybody was back in school for in-person teaching. One day, the lunch was slated to be held during a different hour than usual. It moved lunch from my world history class to English 11.
A few days prior I had chatted with Ms. Barnes, my English teacher, about cheese. She prompted me to bring cheese to the class. So the next evening, I ran to the store and bought materials in preparation for my very first charcuterie board. The anticipated time came, and I pulled out the many items of food to begin preparing. By the time it was finished, people wondered what it was. It began to disappear slowly but surely. It was a hit and Ms. Barnes didn’t want that board to be the last one. She spoke to me about Eastern’s Journalism class that wrote for the Hawk Herald. Something had been missing from the website and at long last, it was found. A food column would be icing on the cake for the already-flourishing school newspaper.
Skip ahead to the beginning of the 2021 fall school year. As journalists began drafting up ideas, I started thinking about the food column that didn’t yet exist. After a short while of prompting, the column was launched and I brainstormed the first move regarding cheese. Midway through September, I stopped into my workplace, Kingma’s, and grabbed anything I could think of that would fit a spooky October theme.
When I brought everything into school, people questioned what was happening. The board soon assembled and in no time was ready to present. I stood up and explained what everything on the board was before a flood of people crowded the table on which it was placed. The feeling of accomplishment was short but great as food disappeared from the table. The most significant feature of the board was never mentioned in a single article. Going behind the scenes allows me to share why I enjoy making arrangements, not just how much I know about food. While people stood around the table and marveled about cheese and the many sweets, it sparked such genuine conversations. A random detail, yet important one, was the size of cups we had for serving fresh apple cider. The office lent out a stack of mini Dixie cups which we carefully poured the cider into. By refilling drinks and sharing food, everyone in the class, who hadn’t known a thing about each other, were no longer strangers.
After the first arrangement, boards became more exciting. If the bag of cheese and wooden board were in view, people knew that a delicious snack was on the way. Days soon became known as a “Cheese day!” The exclamation point is completely necessary. Students sat in their seats, expectantly waiting for the moment when food could be consumed. It was wonderful timing to have lunch in the middle of the hour, giving me more time to prepare food.
Skills were learned during the process of arranging. The first being budgeting and learning how much people actually consume. Boards can be outrageously expensive with good blocks of cheese ranging from $5 all the way up to $11. Produce, meat, and crackers add up to a hefty bill. Without any sort of reimbursement or pooled funds, boards got tricky to make financially. Thankfully over time, I learned what was important to include and where to get food. Not all stores are the most optimal for buying the expensive prosciutto, but maybe their crackers are the cheapest for that brand. Spending so much on something consumed in minutes feels disappointing at times. Don’t be afraid to search for different food items at different stores. And just because something is cheaper doesn’t mean it’s not good.
This year has been a wonderful experience. Furthering a hobby that would never have pursued if the journalism advisor didn’t reach out to me, encouraging creativity backed by a passion for cheese. The community that food created was an outcome nobody in the class expected. But low and behold, it makes the class more like home. While journalism functions similar to an office with set publishing dates, skilled editors, and deep discussions, the break taken to eat was a relaxing for everyone.
Before concluding the final article related to cheese, I’d like to thank everyone for helping in the process of my charcuterie board-based articles. First to Ms. Barnes, thank you for encouraging me to take this class and share my passion for food. And Natalie Mouw, Thank you for spending hours of your time editing and critiquing my articles that often ran far too long. I appreciate all the work you put in to make sure all of these articles are ready for publication. I’d like to thank all of my classmates for eating the food brought into class. Without the feedback and excitement about food, the passion and drive for this article wouldn’t be the same. In the making of the final few boards, my tablemate Sam helped to prepare certain foods. Things like peeling clementines and slicing apples, I’m grateful for the help. And lastly, I thank you, the reader. Thank you for reading about this tasty cheese journey. I hope these articles made the point I presented in the beginning. To step out of the comfort zone, try new foods, and be adventurous.