Pearl Hodges, head of the cheese department and a baker at Astoria Co+op, is excited about the fun cheeses in stock during the holiday season, including baked brie, cheese-making kits and marzipan.
“The holidays are fun, it’s a chance to put out tasty treats for yourself and your loved ones,” Hodges said. “We have a nice selection for a cheese board, which is wonderful for a party.”
“Or just spoil yourself and eat an entire block of cheese, it’s fine,” she added.
Hodges majored in theater arts in San Diego. Her now-husband was living in the Astoria area, so she came up to visit him and ended up moving here and getting married.
Hodges worked at Home Depot for a while before she decided she wanted a change. A previous manager at the co-op suggested she give the deli a try.
“I really love it here,” Hodges said.
After working at the co-op deli for about two years, Hodges began feeling sick. Eventually, she was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to leave work for eight months of chemotherapy and isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The co-op was really supportive during that time and I really appreciate it,” Hodges said.
She continues to have more mild treatments over the next two years and has a good prognosis. She was able to return to the co-op last spring.
“I’m back! Alive!” Hodges said. “It’s been nice to be a person again. I missed being here.”
She feels she came back at a good time, when the co-op’s salad, burrito and hot bar reopened after months of COVID-related restrictions.
The pandemic has caused supply issues across many industries, including cheese, but some of her favorites are becoming more available now.
Some of her local favorites come from Skamokawa Farmstead Creamery, Little Island Creamery, Briar Rose Creamery and Cascadia Creamery.
“We are able to supply very local products that you’re not going to get out of a bigger market,” Hodges said. “And we’re able to meet the needs of allergy restrictions. We’re able to be transparent with everything we have.”
She added it’s nice to work in the kitchen, as she enjoys cooking and baking, and has a good relationship with her local suppliers.
“You know who produced it, transported it and stocked it,” Hodges said.
In her free time, Hodges enjoys drawing and painting surreal and abstract art, writing fantasy, hiking and exploring the beaches in the area. She and her husband are currently working on a novel together.
“Being sick definitely makes you want to get things done,” Hodges said.