Cheese Lit: Books for the Cheese-Obsessed
I'm off to the American Cheese Society Conference in North Carolina after teaching a California Cheese & Wine Class at the Cheese School of San Francisco this week. While I'm exhausting my capabilities to exist in weather warmer than 90 degrees or with any sort of humidity whatsoever (Bay Area weather pansy, right here) and enjoying the culinary wealth of the south, I wanted to give you a little cheese for thought. Before I do though, I want to congratulate my good friend Chef Fromager Tia Keenan on opening Murray's Cheese Bar last week! I couldn't imagine a better or more creative and skilled person to design and run this amazing program. Quick, to New York! But until then....
Introducing some of my favorite Cheese Lit.
It’s an exciting cheese world out there, dairy girls and boys, and there are a plethora of books that explore its magnitude. So put down that slice of Alpine-style, pasture-fed raw milk cheese that’s only made from April to October for long enough to pick up one of these reads. Reconsider that slice with one of these books in hand, and you’ll feel closer to that fermented milk than you ever imagined you would.
The following are a few of my favorite Cheese Lit books. When I say “lit,” I mean, well,… non-fiction or memoir styles. I’ve skipped the guidebooks and tutorials this time in favor of books focusing on odes to cheese, history, politics, and homages. These guys may be consulted for some general advice, but they’re overall better for cuddling up with for a good read (cat or dog at feet optional). Cheese guides to come!
The Cheese Room, Patricia Michelson
“The first taste of autumn for me comes when the cheese table in my shop displays Vacherin Mont D’Or.” How can you not want a book that starts with this line? It’s the ooziest, most loving cheese on the planet, and Michelson admits it right off the bat. The writer and owner of one of the best cheese shops in London follows up with a recipe for this luscious cheese, baked. Such deliciousness repeats.
The Cheese Chronicles: A Journey Through the Making and Selling of Cheese in America, From Field to Farm to Table, Liz Thorpe
This fabulous writer and former Murray’s Cheese VP explains why she switched from a comfy desk job to standing long, long hours on her feet rubbing cheese rinds and flipping cheddars beneath the streets of Manhattan. She takes you on trips with her to train French Laundry’s staff. She tells how she fell in love with dairy. And she does it all with beautiful language and humor.
Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge, by Gordon Edgar
Here’s an author that doesn’t shy away from humor or politics. Edgar explores cheese culture and its reach in society by considering its often hidden role in our lives. He discusses conservative versus liberal cheesemakers, bridges the seemingly wide gap between cheese and punk culture, and looks at big farm business in the U.S. Entertaining and informing.
Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese, Brad Kessler
(see photo on top of post)
You may not know it yet, but you do want to know about goat’s mating life, trust me. From the point when he learns he needs to bring a stud to the farm in order to get his girls lactating to his making first tome, Kessler details his introduction to farm culture and how he fell in love with the goat. Vivid and heartwarming.
Swiss Cheese, Dominik Flammer
I admit, this is extremely hard to find in English. But it’s worth the hunt for the pictures alone. Gorgeous. And inspired. And I’m still looking for my copy. I’ve only been lucky enough to skim over this one at a friend’s and skim the beautiful photos with my fingertips. (The writer recently informed me it's much easier to get in Switzerland and France... so my idea... check out those country's Amazon lists from time to time too).
Updates from the conference to come, and Lastly – My book has a Facebook page! And the profile photo? A shot of my book cover! Publishes November 6th, but you can like my little ol page whenever you want!