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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.
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*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 ChipmanSee all Editorial Reviews
Not a catalog of cheeses but a nice personal insight into the business and his path to it. Kind of an Anthony Bourdain take. Read morePublished 24 days ago by GEM
Great read about the real life and work of a San Francisco cheesemonger who has to negotiate dealing with all sorts of customers - the good, the bad, the indifferent and the... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
Writes about this amazing food in a genial, big picture way. He has seen the flies, smelled the barnyard, met the full political spectrum of producers and consumers and describes... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Reading
Great info ,good writing and enjoyable sense of humor. Recommended reading for the experienced in cheese as well as the novice.Published 20 months ago by robert m shannon
So I shop at Rainbow Grocery - I see Gordon regularly. Love their cheeses. However this book left me flat - I could only make it through about 2/3s of it. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Andrew Nygard
I really wanted to like this book, but I never really "got" the whole punk philosophy thing... Read morePublished on January 29, 2013 by david
I thought this book was great, I've learned a lot about the cheese making process, and I've gotten some good cheese recommendations from the book. Read morePublished on December 6, 2011 by Owen Wall
So interesting how a cheese punk from San Fran opened a door to my backyard (literally) rural Wisconsin cheese makers. This is a very tasty journey. Read morePublished on November 18, 2011 by knifegirl
Gordon Edgar's "Cheesemonger" is laught out loud funny, and functions beautifully on two levels. It is an engrossing, funny and honest tour through the retail cheese world for even... Read morePublished on September 4, 2011 by roxyroller