After 30 years of serving the loyal customers of Rachel’s Bread, Rachel Shenk is now managing The Wedge, a cheese shop located around the corner in the Goshen Farmers Market.
Shenk, who for all those years filled the shelves of her bakery with French baguettes and loaves of sourdough and honey whole wheat, actually had a confession to make.
“I started making bread so I would have something to put my cheese on,” she said.
The transition from bread to cheese is appealing to Shenk, in part because the work is less physically demanding. She worked from 10 to 12 hours a day, five to six days a week, hefting 50 pound bags of flour and 30 pound bowls of dough, rolling out three or four batches of pastries every day. Now she’ll be handling and cutting 40 pound wheels of cheese.
Shenk said that at the cheese shop she’ll also have more time and opportunity to directly connect with customers.
On Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., customers can browse The Wedge’s selection of cheeses from the United States, Canada and Europe.
“I think that we are very fortunate to have a cheese shop in Goshen,” said Irene Gross, a Goshen resident who grew up in Switzerland. “The American public is getting acquainted with imported and exotic cheeses, and Rachel has an incredible number of choices to offer.”
Shenk’s love of cheese runs deep into her childhood. Shenk was raised in Belgium. When she was in elementary school she remembers her mom sending her to the little shop down the street where they would grate parmesan on the spot. Depending on the day, she might be on an errand for Emmental or Gruyère, both made in Switzerland.
She remembers her mom cutting the rinds off of the cheese and, as a child, being stricken at the thought of seeing any part wasted. “There’s still cheese on there,” Shenk would say, and then proceed to eat it like a little mouse.
Shenk recalls her dad’s love of cheese.
“My dad would come into the kitchen with me when there were cheeses around and he’d be like ‘That piece of cheese is not straight enough — I need to straighten that out,’ and then he would just chop little pieces off for himself,” Shenk recalled with a laugh.
One of her fondest memories comes from her time living in Spain as a college student.
“On a Saturday morning, I went to the market in Barcelona,” she said, “and I was walking down the street on my way to the market and fairly narrow street, and I saw this guy coming down with a cart full of cheese with maybe a donkey pulling it, and he was tall, dark and handsome, like you would imagine a Spaniard, red kerchief around his neck. I saw his cart coming, and I was like, if he would get down off his cart and ask me to marry him I would do it on the spot and go back into his little village with a cart of cheese and be a cheesemaker.”
Shenk’s experience and travel in Europe has been a gift as she has built her diverse collection.
Lupulus, a cheese made in Spain with organic milk and washed in beer, is one of the popular cheeses at The Wedge.
Capriole, another popular cheese at The Wedge, is a goat cheese made by artisan cheese maker Judy Schad in southern Indiana.
Shenk also has Raclette, a cheese imported from Switzerland that Gross believes is most excellent along with Tête de Moine (Monk’s head), an unusual cheese that is shaved into delicate flowers and found on cheese plates in restaurants throughout France and Switzerland.
Shenk’s European background has given her a foundation to work with as she has built her collection of cheeses. Along with keeping her ears open to what customers suggest and reading about cheese, she also has broadened her cheese selection through her brother, who brings her wheels from Wisconsin.
Shenk is looking forward to what the future may hold for The Wedge. She hopes to continue to get the word out about The Wedge and do some travelling to several of the creameries and suppliers of the cheese she sells.
Shenk’s love for cheese is hand in hand with her love of stories. She hopes that by her sharing her love of something it might prompt others to go after what they love.
“Rachel is very personable, she takes time with each customer, advising and suggesting the best choices for any occasion,” said Gross. “Visits to the Wedge is part of “la bonne vie (the good life), the name of Rachel’s column in The Goshen News.”