Could you resist a shop with this sandwich board outside? I couldn’t. (The fact that I’d walked 2.6 miles uphill to get there also helped. Yes, there are buses. But in the words of one of my favourite (anti-)heroines, ‘Shopping is my cardio.’)
The originally named Cheeses in Muswell Hill is tucked into the corner of a Victorian arcade. Walk fast along Fortis Green Road and you’d miss it – if it weren’t for that sandwich board. Brimming with British cheese and special cheeses from around the world, condiments and crackers to go with them, and special sausages and gorgeous-looking chocolates, it’s run by staff who are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and kind, without a trace of that snootiness you might find in other cheese shops. (My dad was once told by a horrified purveyor of fine cheeses, ‘Chaource is not a cheese!’).
At this time of year it’s also stacked with boxes ready for the Christmas rush, full of specially-ordered festive cheeses, waiting to adorn the tables of parties and feasts.
I’d gone in search of a cheese to pair with two chutneys as part of a Christmas box for my uncle. I wanted something robust but not complicated, which wouldn’t fight with the flavours of the pickles, and was well-wrapped or potted so it would keep quietly for two weeks without making its stinky presence felt amongst the other presents. Other customers were piling in excitedly in search of the truffled brie which had just come in, already threatening to creep its way across the counter, or the delicious looking Vacherin Mont D’or.
I left with a heart-shaped Godminster Cheddar, wrapped in purple wax for safe keeping until Christmas, and an end of Stilton to stir into my broccoli soup. The man in front of me bought £78 worth of cheese, his weekly haul! (‘Cheese is my blood!’ he announced, telling the not-remotely-interested-but-trying-very-sweetly-not-to-show-it shopgirl as she wrestled with his growing pile of truculent cheeses, that his grandmother was from Cheddar. I, looking at his girth and the large bag of prescription pills tucked under his arm, thought it probably was.)
I could easily have done the same, though. Everywhere you look there are increasingly enticing morsels of cheese.