Sascha Ingram is the big cheese. Well, she can tell you about the big cheese, and the small cheese, and nearly any type of pasteurized or raw milk cheese. Sascha works as the Education Coordinator at Manhattan’s largest cheesemonger, Murray’s Cheese, which is a pretty delicious job to this Norman, Oklahoma native.
Growing up, Sascha’s grandparents laid the groundwork for this connoisseur of all things fresh, bloomy, hard and blue. “As a kid, my grandparents used to give me a whole wheel something called farmer’s cheese in my stocking for Christmas. I felt like the luckiest kid ever. Years later, once I was a few years into a career in education, I started working one day a week at a specialty grocery store run by some friends of mine. Soon one day a week became every day that I wasn’t at the school, plus evenings, until I was closing the store, baking on the night shift, reading cheese books on my breaks at the other job, and eating dozens of cheeses a week.”
This passion was a perfect fit for New York’s legendary Murray’s Cheese shop. Sascha applies her adoration to teaching others about the subtleties in taste and texture of cheese, along with what each variety pairs with. Her courses delve into the origins and process of making cheese, as well as solving some mysteries, like who really invented Shropshire Blue. She also researches tirelessly, and creates educational materials that enhance her students’ experience. For her courses, she cuts and plates half a dozen cheeses for thirty people, pours wine, and sets out any necessary accoutrements. “I’m lucky because I almost always get to finish my day with a little cheese and wine,” she says.
The real joy of her job lies with the people who make it possible: the farmers and cheesemakers. “The absolute best part of my day is when I get to visit a farm like Nettle Meadow Farm in Warrensburg, NY, which makes the incredible cheese, Kunik, and also serves as an animal sanctuary. Or when I get to meet an inspirational cheesemakers, or interact with farms who support foundations like Farms for City Kids,” Sascha says. “These people work tirelessly not only to make great cheese, but also to protect small farms, safe and sustainable food systems, and enrich land through sustainable agriculture.”
So, is good taste in cheese learned or born? “I grew up eating Velveeta, as did some of my colleagues. I didn’t taste goat cheese until I was in college. I think that the subtleties or depth of a well-made cheese don’t need to be explained so much as they just need to be experienced. I think that having good taste in anything is primarily about having an open mind and seeking out new things. The best way to build your palate is to smell and taste everything you can to build up a bank of sensory memories to reference,” she advises.
Outside of Murray’s, Sascha knits, reads Southern fiction, and collects pottery from Oklahoma in a particular shade of green. She’s also a fervent advocate of eating disorder awareness. Sacha hopes that she can one day figure out how to live on a farm without having to milk a goat twice a day. Ultimately though, she wants to maintain the ecosystem and process that have brought cheese to the masses. “I’d like to be more involved in sustaining the small farmer and using agriculture to promote and preserve culture and environmental sustainability, particularly with regard to cattle and rotational grazing. I’d like to help people better understand where their food comes from and how all of the systems work together.”
For educating people about cheese and working towards a sustainable food system, we think that Sascha Ingram is an ooey-gooey Reblochon of a Cool Girl!