The Cheese Case

By Katie Machen

September 25, 2023

The Cheese Case

On Sunday mornings, I open the shop alone. Pulling myself from the heavy gravity of my beloved, with coffee in hand, I use three keys: lock, gate, door. Apron, lights, sign flipped OPEN—an invitation.

Sundays give the impression of time. There’s patience, even as a line forms to the back of the shop, everyone coming in all at once for their week’s salami and ham.

In a quiet moment, a father comes in with twin boys, five or so, and they marvel at the case like they’re at an aquarium, pointing to the biggest cheese they can see. Their fascination is enough for me to keep things clean and tidy, to spend the hour at the start of the day rearranging, scraping surface mold, rewrapping plastic tight as I can and displaying the cheese in its case so others may discover something new, taste something they’d never known existed.

At the back is a half-wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the result of centuries of history and two years aging, cared for by makers and affineurs and now somehow arrived here in Queens for us to chisel open, its interior a landscape, crags of gold.

"You see that cheese back there? It weighs forty pounds. Do you know how much you weigh?"

One boy points to the other. "He weighs forty-five pounds!"

Every room we enter might be a museum, so much to notice. When I pack out olives and one falls to the floor, I think, What a waste, what a wonder.


Katie Machen is a writer and cheesemonger based in Queens. Among others, her work has appeared in Entropy, Windmill, and Off Assignment, and she holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Queens College, CUNY. She is happiest at a farmers market or by the water, any water. 


Image by Marjan Blan courtesy of Unsplash

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