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Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge Paperback – January 21, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing; 1St Edition edition (January 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603582371
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603582377
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #810,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Beginning with the Antique Gruyere that awoke his sleeping palate to the wonders and possibilities of cheese, professional cheesemonger Edgar recounts the path that landed him behind the cheese counter of a San Francisco co-op. Armed with a healthy disdain for pretentiousness and a liberal attitude rooted in punk rock and activism, Edgar provides engaging, illuminating essays on the intricacies of cheese and its production-from milk to the use of hormones to methods of farming-as well as profiles of well-known varieties; he even makes room for oft-maligned American Cheese (Edgar himself was raised on Velveeta and Kraft Singles), as well as entertaining digressions on crazy customers. Unfortunately, Edgar's asides can irritate as often as they inform, repeating his thoughts on issues like the logistics of food cooperatives and challenges facing the nation's milk producers. Edgar's passion for the subject, including its politics and social implications, is unassailable, and should give readers a new perspective on their favorite wedge of fromage. The book works best as a bulletin from the front lines, rather than a guide to distinguishing Cashel from Maytag Blue; it should prove most interesting to locavores, fellow cheesemongers, and those interested in the U.S. food industry.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gordon (Zola) Edgar recounts his life in cheese, which began when he took a job at the cheese counter of the famed Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco, knowing little beyond the Monterey Jack he grew up eating. His punk-rock aesthetic and political activism meshed beautifully with the worker-run natural foods store, but it wasn’t until a revelatory encounter with an Antique Gruyère that a true passion was kindled. He claims that this is a memoir, not a guidebook, but you couldn’t really ask for a more personable guide and introduction to the world of cheese, especially for those turned off by the lah-de-dahing often associated with it. He has a tendency to talk in circles, wandering from topic to topic and back around again, but it’s almost always enlightening and entertaining. He’ll get into aging cheese, then mirror it with his own maturation, or slice into the political aspects of making cheese (of which there are many), then segue into his own unique role in the community, or counterbalance techie talk of rennet and growth hormones with personal anecdotes of persnickety customers and earthy cheese makers. What really sets him apart, though, is his absolute disdain for pretension. He recognizes that a cheese obsession is inevitably foodie-ish, but that doesn’t mean it has to be tied up in snobbery and fetishization of trendy buzzwords (his picking apart of artisinal and terroir are especially delicious). Each chapter ends with a couple of cheese recommendations for us poor souls not lucky enough to have a Gordon Zola in our own neighborhoods. --Ian Chipman

Customer Reviews

Overall, the book is humorous as well as informative and quite enjoyable to read.
Erika Mitchell
Gordon Edgar has written a gripping book about his life as a punk rock cheesemonger at the eclectic Rainbow Cooperative Grocery in San Francisco.
M. Hill
Also appreciated the author sharing with the reader how sales men/women lie and how he loved catching them in a lie.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A. Gerber on February 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
I bought this book because I have met Gordon a few times, follow his blog, and have benefited from his cheese knowledge more than once. I was excited to read the book when it finally came out because I think Gordon has a lot to say about what it's like to live at the intersection of various sub-cultures: punk, politics, co-op worker, foodie/cheese connoisseur, and thinking person.

If you are picking up this book because you want a guide to cheese, or you want to read in-depth about small scale US producers, or because you want to know all about how cheese is made, then you will almost certainly be disappointed with this book. As Gordon states right up front, this book is a memoir. It is the story of how someone's life choices led him down an unusual and unexpected path, which has resulted in becoming enmeshed in a world that very few of us have any experience with. Along the way he discusses specific cheese, specific cheese producers, the debates about farming styles that are raging at present. But he also talks about neighborhoods and communities; about ethical practice in working, shopping, and eating; about becoming a master of a trade, and being initiated into is mysteries much as apprentices throughout the ages have been.

This book is about much more than just cheese, so much so that cheese sometimes runs the risk of being only a minor player in the story. If Gordon's life weren't so interesting, or if his insights weren't so thought provoking, that might actually have been a problem with the book. But instead, cheese is the platform from which Gordon chooses to share his worldview with us. This book is a "teaching moment," and not just about cheese! Although, believe me, you will learn plenty about cheese.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A reader on January 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sorry--dumb pun. And not funny, which this irreverent book is. Laugh-out-loud funny sometimes. By no means a guidebook, this is more like a series of essays addressing issues related to cheese (and anarchistic politics). One chapter, about raw milk cheeses, is the best summary of the pros and cons, the dangers real and imagined, that I've seen on the topic. As Edgar's customer (I don't know him) I can attest to the fact that, judging by his taste and selection, the man really knows great cheese. Decidedly raw (like the milk used to make some of the best cheese), his opinions and perspective are fresh and a tonic in the face of an incipient snobbery that has afflicted some cheese-related marketing and discourse.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I LOVE this book. And even if you don't like cheese beyond the 'American singles' Kraft makes, I still want you to read this book.

Bear in mind I grew up in a home where we made cheese, so it always seemed odd that everyone didn't come from homes who did this. But we also grew most of our own food, raised our own meat, as well as hunted and fished. And being from a French and Scottish background we loved a variety of cheeses. And to this day authentic high quality cheese with small sardines on crackers are the treat the kids in the family still ask for.

Am blessed to live in a rural Northern California area where as an example I can get raw milk white cheddar cheese from places like Fiscalini dairy in Modesto, or local goat cheeses and sheep cheeses all organic milk made cheeses. As a kid I was exposed to French cheeses like La Roche, or the cave aged Forume D' Ambert and cave aged Emmental from Swiss caves, that were and are still raw milk gems. A far cry from the first time we toured the Tillamook cheese facotry in Tillamook Oregon back in the late 1950's on a rainy summer afternoon.

And this is why I love this book even more. It whets the appetite of the reader. Encourages with a gentle nudge. Explains the history of cheese and the countries the various cheeses hail from, and why they are wonderful in so many eating situations, from homemade mac and cheese with a mix of three cheeses, to simply slicing off a nice piece of Gruyère and letting it melt in your mouth. The author does a superb job of explaining why we as Americans do ourselves a big favor when we make the effort to buy wonderful artisan cheeses from the small dairy men/women. And how environmentally sound this is, when we buy as close
to home as possible.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. Hyman VINE VOICE on March 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I am mixed on this book. On the one hand, it strongly conveys an appreciation for cheese, and in fact when i was most recently in the cheese section of the grocery store I bought some cheeses the author discusses, so there was some immediate benefit. (And the cheese was quite tasty.)

The book provides a nice overview of some aspects of cheese production... things to look for, the overall system from the farm to the retail location. And, he provides a nice discussion at the end of each chapter about various cheeses and that has been useful. I no longer look at a white stilton the same.

The book is easy to read and flows reasonably well.

On the downside, I was hoping to have more about cheese in the book. Although it does discuss various aspects of cheese production and the sales mechanics, I would have liked much more. McGee for example has much more depth and interesting material, and there are other cheese books that provide a richness of pictures and discussion about how they are made that are quite lovely. This book doesn't attempt to do either, so perhaps it is an unfair comparison, but i found myself wanting more cheese.

I also found that the author's discussion of punk philosophy got old quite fast. Some of the stories are interesting, but the focus doesn't really add to much to the book.

In short, I'm glad I read the book and I came away wanting to eat more cheese, but I didn't learn nearly as much as I had hoped.
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More About the Author

Gordon Edgar is a San Francisco-based writer whose political cheese memoir "Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge" will be published by Chelsea Green in March 2010

Edgar has been the cheesemonger for Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco, California since 1994. Rainbow is San Francisco's biggest independent grocery store and the country's largest retail worker co-op. Edgar has been a panelist speaking at numerous cheese events over the last decade, served as an aesthetic judge at national cheese competitions, and helped develop the educational programming at the annual Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the California Artisan Cheese Guild. Edgar's writing has been published by, Clamor Magazine, The Anderson Valley Advertiser, MaximumRocknRoll and Zine World. He has also had a blog since 2002 which now resides at

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