What job does an English Literature graduate do if she doesn't want to teach?
Faced with this dilemma, fresh out of university, I decided to work in a shop until I worked out what to do when I grew up. Since that shop turned out to be Neal's Yard Dairy, my question was answered: Cheese.
Some people are cheese-aholics. I was not one of those people. but I had cherished memories of family holidays in which cheese played a big part. We used to spend 8 weeks every summer in the Abruzzo, Italy. We drove there, loading the car onto a train at Boulogne and arriving in Milan the following morning. That train journey was an adventure. I pinched myself to stay awake until we travelled through the Alps, majestic mountain peaks brushing past our window. Every year we bought an epic picnic for our evening meal from Boulogne's old town centre, where I first encountered a fromagerie. A whole shop that sold nothing but cheese.
With these memories, and those of oozing Camemberts, firm hearted chevres and lethally smelly Pont L'Evecque eaten on fresh baguette as the train clackety-clacked its way south, I became a cheesemonger.
I never did get a 'proper job'. Instead, I sold cheese: in Neal's Yard's shops, in their wholesale department, I ran their mail order department. When they helped develop Borough Market, I got it off the ground for them: inviting stallholders to the market, fielding enquiries and organising the Selection Committee whose role was to make sure the market had an unparalleled selection of foods of every variety. Following this, I developed and improved the Quality Assurance programme at Neal's Yard Dairy, in the process learning more about microbiology and chemistry than an English Literature graduate ever expects to. Finally, I was the coalescing presence that moved Neal's Yard Dairy's marketing from a slightly fragmented and departmental based approach to a company-wide overall strategy.
Ultimately, with a heavy heart, I realised my time there was up. I had been immensely lucky to work in so many and varied areas of the company and learn so much, but I wanted to get hands on. I wanted to make cheese.
So I left London, moved to Cumbria and worked 9 months with Martin Gott at Holker Dairy, making his cheese St James. Since then I have been working with Nettlebed Creamery as we plan and build a dairy and begin making cheese with their organic herd's cows milk.