I really love cheese, but when you are raising teenagers you’re not going to buy fancy hand-made cheese at fancy prices. They would have it all gobbled in a morning! So I do my best – I buy it in a supermarket and try to leave it at the right temperature to get the flavours as rich as possible without letting it spoil. My children used to ask for the mildest cheese possible but now that they are getting older and more sophisticated they are starting to appreciate the finer flavours in a well-made cheese. I’m still not going to give it to them very often though.
Sheridans Cheesemonger started out years ago as a stall in Galway Market.
Over time the stall morphed into a shop in the same spot as the stall was. I thought it would be a nice place to include in my upcoming book, An Urban Sketcher’s Galway, which is due to be published by Currach Press later this year. I rang to see if I could sketch through the window of the wine bar above the cheese shop, which overlooks the market. No problem!
I spent an hour or so drawing the market on a very wet January day, and arranged to come and sketch in the shop itself another day. Meanwhile, the cheese some of the customers were munching nearby made my mouth water.
“I’d like to buy some cheese,” I told Aoife, one of the managers. “It’s just too tempting.”
Aoife picked out some cheeses she thought would go together, a Shropshire blue, a mature goat gouda and a Derg cheddar. I nearly fainted in rapture when she gave me a slice of each to taste, I’m not joking. Then she added a lovely venison sausage and some crackers – and wouldn’t hear of payment. I hadn’t even sketched her shop yet! I felt very lucky and enjoyed the cheese thoroughly with my family that night. I sketched them as quickly as I could before they disappeared…
The beautiful design on the bag, and on the sign outside (and all the graphics inside) were done by the extremely talented Róisín Coyle. She did them twenty years ago but they are as fresh today as then.
The next morning I sketched them again because I didn’t like the way I had cropped the bottom of the cheese, and promptly did the same thing again…
This time I included some of the lovely port I had bought in Portugal during the Sketch Tour last March. The smell of the port and wine (delicious) annoyed my husband Marcel, who was eating muesli next to where I was sitting with my still life.
I went back to Sheridans the following Tuesday and sketched in the shop.
I really enjoyed sketching here, even though nothing interesting happened, except for the young woman who came in and chatted with one of the staff about a well-known pub that’s scheduled for demolition.
“They say it’s haunted,” said the woman.
Galway. Ireland. That’s all I need to say about that.
Aoife told me about an event they had planned for the following Friday, when an Italian parmesan maker would come over with his fabulous cheese to be sampled with some nice wines upstairs in the wine bar. It was suggested I might like to come and draw that. It sounded great, so I brought Marcel and my good friend Lorraine along and they sipped fancy wines in enormous glasses while I sketched.
That’s my glass of wine on the left. I made it last the entire evening because I was driving and the laws have become very strict here. Even though the glass didn’t start out any fuller than it looks there, I could still feel the effects as I got into my car two hours later. I was “legal”, but I think I’ll leave it out next time.
A man in tweed casually tossed a parmesan label onto my sketchbook as I sketched.
“Include that in the sketch,” he said.
“Are you one of the Sheridans?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “I’m Séamus.”
My brother Malachy has mentioned Séamus to me loads of times – they go back a long way. I told Séamus who I was: he had fond memories of Mal, and it felt nice to make the connection.
“Come outside to the van,” he said to Lorraine and me. “I want to show you something.”
Lorraine and I exchanged glances and I laughed.
“It’s been 35 years since I heard that,” I said.
It was a freezing, crisp night and the street was deserted as we followed Séamus to the van. He did indeed have something very special to show us. It was a cheese wrapped in a white wrapper.
“This cheese has never been in a fridge,” he said. “Never.”
It smelled divine. Séamus gave the cheese to Lorraine and me, but Lorraine insisted that I take it home.
“My crew won’t appreciate it,” she said.
I have it in a very cool place – not a fridge – and I will sketch what’s left of it. I think it deserves it.
(A week later, I was telling the kids I teach about the evening. I got to the bit where Séamus opens the doors of the van. “What do you think the special thing was?” I asked the kids. “A puppy?” said one of the little girls.)
Séamus and I chatted about cheese making, bread making and how it’s so worth the extra effort, then I got back to sketching in the warm wine bar.
Here are the people enjoying their wine:
The cheese maker is called Giorgio. I asked him, somewhat superfluously, if he was the G in the label.
“Yes,” he said in his Piedmont (Italian) drawl. “In 1855 my great-great-grandfather started the company. He was called Giorgio. My great-grandfather was called Giacomo. My grandfather was called Giorgio. My father was Giacomo. I am Giorgio and my son is…guess.”
“Giacomo,” I said.
“Yes!” said Giorgio, very impressed. I guessed he didn’t have to drive later. That’s him in the ghostly outline at the top, gesticulating in a very Italian way to the pretty blonde girl we made friends with in the bar. I wrote down the names of all his progenitors, not that I couldn’t have remembered two names beginning with G…
The cheese was delicious. The wine I had was nice. The company was terrific. The sketching was fun.
And Séamus Sheridan left some parmesan in a bag for me to collect the next day.
A wonderful experience: a wonderful way to see out January and start February.