If there was a silver lining to be found amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the emergence of independent businesses that took advantage of a unique niche.
For Melissa Christensen, that meant capitalizing on a trend that had been sweeping gatherings across the globe: Charcuterie boards.
“There is something fun and convenient about them for get-togethers with family and friends,” she said. “They’re easy, they don’t cost a lot, and there is a lot of variety you can get with them, from more traditional boards with meats and cheeses to dessert boards, breakfast boards with muffins and bagels, boards based on a specific color and even themed boards for different holidays. The possibilities are endless.”
The 34-year-old is the owner of The Board QC, which specializes in creating custom charcuterie boards for parties, weddings and other events.
“I’ve done everything from board displays for smaller, private gatherings to grazing tables for weddings and events hosting up to 350 people,” said Christensen, a Platteville, Wis., native, who now calls the Quad Cities home with her husband and three children — ages 2, 7 and 11.
Christensen will be the highlight of this year’s Her Night Out, set for 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Grand River Center in the Port of Dubuque.
She’ll demonstrate how to make a charcuterie board. Additionally, participants will be able to judge a charcuterie board showdown, as well as munch on their own charcuterie board, shop from local vendors, have a chance to win door prizes and be treated to live entertainment from local country songstress Elizabeth Mary.
Christensen previously worked in marketing before launching The Board QC in June 2020. It since has evolved into her full-time venture, speaking to the popularity of charcuterie boards.
“They’re a little more fun than just having a cheese plate at a party,” she said, with a laugh. “People say charcuterie boards and mimosas are so popular because this generation grew up eating Lunchables and drinking Sunny D.”
On the contrary, the word “charcuterie” was first used to describe shops found in 15th century France that sold products made from pork. The traditional charcuterie board — displaying a variety of cured meats, cheeses, breads, crackers, nuts, fruits, honey, jams, jellies and other produce — date back to the Renaissance era, between the 1600s and 1700s.
Their resurgence in Western culture came in the 19th and 20th centuries, with the popularity of finger foods at cocktail parties.
While they can be found as appetizer staples at many restaurants today, they have continued to be a hit at private gatherings due to their ease of preparation and versatility.
However, apps such as Pinterest and Instagram, featuring more complex and expensive board creations, have helped make charcuteries a booming industry.
That’s been a good thing for people like Christensen.
“People will have different requests about what they like and don’t like, and a professional can help customize it for them,” she said. “But it’s also something that is accessible and that people can learn to create on their own. The biggest thing is to start small and to go with what tastes good to you because no matter how pretty you make it, it is something you want to be able to eat.”
Megan Gloss writes for the Telegraph Herald.