I brought a surprise for my father to Thanksgiving dinner — and it made him happy. Back in 1962 & ’63 our family lived in Céligny Switzerland, not far from Geneva, an experience that broadened all of our horizons more than we could ever have imagined. Among many other things, my father and I discovered the wonder and delight of European cheeses — hundreds of them. One of his favorites was Bel Paese, a semi-soft Italian cheese (originally made to compete with soft French cheeses) that we would get at a local cheese shop.
So when The Cave opened on Main St., I asked Laura, the owner, if she had any Bel Paese. She didn’t but was happy to order it for me. She also ordered Appenzeller, a Swiss cheese I fell in love with at 7 years old. Here’s a video of Vickie tasting the cheeses and wine we got on our first trip to The Cave.
(Since then, we’ve learned how to pronounce the name of the wine. It sounds like Sarah Harris and that’s how I remember it — my first girlfriend was named Sarah.)
OK, back to the story: we brought a chunk of Bel Paese to Thanksgiving dinner this year and you should have seen the expression on my father’s face. Soft, buttery, with a unique aromatic flavor, this simple taste transported him back to that wonderful cheese shop in Switzerland and we began reliving adventures from 50 years ago.
That’s why I shop locally. A personal connection with the owner of a local shop is priceless.
Last year, I wrote a letter to the Gloucester Daily Times entitled Occupy Main St., with another story about shopping locally and I was surprised at comments from people who would only by locally made goods. That, to me, is going too far.
I don’t expect that everything I buy is going to be made locally. Honestly, that’s impractical and undesirable. I like European cheeses and wines. And I love chocolate and coffee, neither of which grows around here. More importantly, I’m certainly not going to wait until late next spring to eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
Trade with the rest of the world has been a major economic driver of our country and our city since the beginning. If nobody outside of Gloucester ate the fish landed here, our economy would have been dead in the water hundreds of years ago. And the Boston Tea Party was a protest against taxing a staple that comes from thousands of miles away.
I love being able to go downtown and find exotic items with the magic that brings another time to life for my father and me. The fact that supporting local shops helps keep them in business and drives our local economy makes me feel even better about it.
Do you feel this good after having stood in line at the mall? Probably not. So let’s support our local merchants and then go out and party at local venues who support local musicians. There’s tons to do this weekend. Check out the local live music schedule here.