In 1998, Spencer Johnson wrote perhaps one of the silliest “business” books of all time, Who Moved My Cheese? I read it when I worked at The Big Corporation Up The Road and the simplistic allegory was a regular source of laughter with my sophisticated co-workers. Sometimes, we’d bring in cubed cheeses and move them around our cubicles to practice the principles in the book. After a few days, the expression “Who moved my cheese?” wasn’t that funny anymore and we started moving smoked salmon, chocolate nonpareils, and even petit fours around instead. The tiny tome remains a top-selling business book, though, and I’m not really sure what to say about that.
When it comes to moving cheese, books, mail, and just about everything else, Federal Express delivers the world on time; not every consumer experience requires a personal interaction. With just a few mouse clicks (no pun intended) you can move some cheese from a little cheese shop somewhere else in the world to your front door. VVRROOM…the cheese has arrived. Spencer Johnson would tell you to “savor the adventure and enjoy the taste of the new cheese.”
Of course, the first lesson in Johnson’s book is “they keep moving the cheese” and that is true in North Hampton, New Hampshire. Nancy Briggs Guilmette has operated “C’est Cheese” there for about ten years. Until recently, she was located on a part of Lafayette Road (Route 1) I never traveled; I rarely stopped at her shop. On the occasions I would stop, it was always one of the cheese high holy days and I’d get a little claustrophobic among the maddening crowds of cheese movers. Then one day I noticed her sign on some different real estate, right in the “village” section of town.
Her new location was bigger, brighter, and easy to get to, with lots of parking. One late October afternoon as dusk was falling, the windows of C’est Cheese were twinkling with cozy lamp light. It looked like a cottage had been plunked down in the middle of the suburban strip malls.
There were no maddening crowds, so I decided to stop.
Nancy was in the “kitchen” portion of her shop, cooking up a pot of pea soup. She said “hello” and invited me to sit at the bar section of her kitchen; she was almost done. The warm, homey lighting and the cooking smells distracted me from the cheese case and I plunked myself down on a kitchen stool. She gave me a sample of the soup and we chatted about cheese, the weather, French cooking, and life. The world of imported cheese and specialty foods is a bit like a reality Tee Vee show, with lots of drama and intrigue; global consolidations and hurricanes can set a cargo boat full of French cheese drifting aimlessly in the Atlantic Ocean for weeks, much to Nancy’s chagrin.
When I asked her how she deals with such uncertainty, she explains that in another version of her life, she was a personal chef and she had learned to make the best of the ingredients in the cupboard. When the French cheeses didn’t arrive, she featured the Italian and Swiss cheeses which were delivered before the hurricane.
Nancy knows “they keep moving the cheese” and like a well-seasoned intelligence officer, she monitors the cheese movements with regular communications to industry insiders. When she can’t get the Brie or Bleu she needs, she throws up her hands and makes a lemon cake.
“C’est la vie!”
There is something comfortable and familiar about C’est Cheese; I can’t quite put that quality into words. I’m glad Nancy moved the cheese, though. Every few weeks, I can escape the mouse trap for thirty minutes or so with a bit of cheese, a bite of Quiche Lorraine, or even a sparkling cucumber soda. Nancy stands alone in moving quality cheeses from around the world to the Seacoast.
C’est Cheese is a European style cheese store located at 61 Lafayette Road in North Hampton, New Hampshire. Owned and operated by Nancy Briggs Guilmette, the store is open seven days a week.