Growing up in Shaker Heights, the highlight of the week was my mother taking me to Cheese World at Van Aken. Upon opening the door, my nose was aroused by the aromas wafting of glorious artisan cheese being sampled and sliced behind the counter. This was my playground. My mother knew taking me here meant sacrificing a better part of her day, but she understood my love of cheese better than anyone so she indulged her little house mouse and let me go wild. The 70’s weren’t really known for cheese so my selections by today’s standards may seem rather pedestrian. Back then, Leerdammer, Camembert, Emmental, and Chevre were rather extravagant for anyone,especially a five year old. In a world of Ritz crackers I preferred stone ground wafers to accompany the various cheese spreads made on premises. My favorite was the sharp cheddar with horseradish followed by the red caviar and chevre.
The owners of Cheese World were kind and patient with me. They allowed my curiosity to be indulged and never limited my tastings. At times I would become so lost in my discoveries my mother would leave me to go next door to Hough Bakery for Challah and other tasty pastries (again, it was the 70’s so my being alone in a shop was still considered safe). In the end, I would emerge from the heavenly shop with my standard Leerdammer, Jarlsberg, and Havarti as well as small sections of Fontina Val d’Aosta , Grafton sharp white cheddar or some other new discovery. These chunks of gold were better than any toy on the planet. Best of all, I didn’t have to share them with my cheese-hating sister. They were all mine (or maybe my mom and dad’s if they asked nice).
Since Cheese World closed it’s doors over a decade ago, I have been on the hunt for cheesemongers throughout Cleveland. Sadly, I have yet to find one that gives me the same feeling I had as a child. That feeling of being a house mouse in her comfortable home.