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Cheese and Culture: A History of Cheese and its Place in Western Civilization Hardcover – April 1, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In this scholarly yet accessible history of cheese, noted food scientist Kindstedt plumbs the very earliest evidence of cheese making. Beginning in the shadowy Neolithic era, improving climatic conditions encouraged sheep and goat herding throughout the Fertile Crescent. Manufacture of pottery made possible the storage of excess milk and provided a transportation medium. Primitive acid-coagulated cheeses emerged for local consumption, but the discovery of rennet coagulation made possible hard cheeses with long shelf lives that could readily be shipped across land and sea. During the Middle Ages, innovative European monastic communities developed sophisticated techniques that generated a tremendous diversity of cheeses. Cheddar and Stilton shone in England, France became famous for its Roquefort and Gruyère, and Holland marketed Gouda and Edam. Colonization of the New World and the Industrial Revolution gave rise to today’s mass-produced cheeses, not always to the benefit of quality or flavor. --Mark Knoblauch


"All honor and respect to Aristaious -- the Greek god who taught us to make cheese -- and to Paul Kindstedt, who in Cheese and Culture teaches us its glorious history ever since."--Rob Kaufelt, proprietor, Murray's Cheese NYC

"From the Garden of Eden to the dairy industries of today, Paul S. Kindstedt unfolds the monumental story of cheese. Vast in scope, rich in detail, Cheese and Culture is a casein-inspired epic."--Eric LeMay, author of Immortal Milk

"Cheese and Culture is the book both cheese professionals and cheese geeks have been waiting for. Professor Kindstedt gives us the mostly untold history of cheese and its societal import from 6500 BC to the present, answering all my cheese questions -- even the ones I didn't know I had. Cheese and Culture is the most comprehensive cheese book ever written by an American, a great addition to our collective cheese library."--Gordon Edgar, cheese buyer, Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, San Francisco, and author of Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge

"In this painstakingly researched yet passion-laced book, Paul Kindstedt shows us how cheese, from its rudimentary beginnings to today's manufacturing, is inextricably linked to culture and, no less, to our future. Cheese and Culture is essential reading for anyone who loves cheese and, equally, cares about the future of food itself."--Laura Werlin, author, Laura Werlin's Cheese Essentials

"I love this book - accessible in its prose and style with the breadth and depth of an academic work. All those interested in the role that cheesemaking has played in the development of the world we live in will come away after reading this book with context and understanding, and an intellectual appreciation of why cheese appeals to so many people at an emotional level. Paul Kindstedt has produced a seminal work in Cheese and Culture."--Mateo Kehler, cheesemaker, Jasper Hill Farm

"Paul Kindstedt has fashioned a remarkable book about one of humankind's most distinctive foods. Drawing upon comprehensive evidence from archaeology to contemporary artisan cheese making, Dr. Kindstedt shapes the complex story of cheese. He examines the impact of geography and climate, religion, social status and wealth, transportation and commerce... to describe and explain the 8,500-year evolution of cheese from Neolithic humans to present-day America. From archaeologists and anthropologists and historians to cheesemakers and consumers who want to deepen their understanding and appreciation of cheese, Dr. Kindstedt's book will enlighten, entertain, and reveal the fascinating history and culture of cheese. Bravissimi e complimenti!"--Jeffrey Roberts, New England Culinary Institute, and author of The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese

"Only a true scholar could weave together the complexity of history, anthropology, language, geography, religion and science to inform and enlighten our understanding of the evolution of cheese making throughout the millennia. Kindstedt, first and foremost with his discerning scientific mind, helps historians inform the heretofore mysteries in the cheese making continuum."--Catherine Donnelly, PhD, co-director, Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese

"Dr. Kindstedt's love and passion for the artisan cheese movement is inspiring. In his latest book, he has presented a beautiful and historically rich mosaic of the history of cheese on our little green planet. With reference to the past, and detailed attention paid to the present, as well as extrospection for the future, Dr. Kindstedt has created an amalgamation of artisan cheese reference, the like of which has not been attempted before."--Matt Jennings, co-owner/executive chef, Farmstead/La Laiterie, Providence, RI

"This book will fascinate anyone who loves cheese. With a sweeping perspective, from the earliest prehistoric domestication of goats and sheep to the present, it chronicles how social, technological, and political developments gave rise to the vast array of cheeses we know and love."--Sandor Ellix Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation, The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, and Wild Fermentation

"No cheese lover or cheesemaker's education will be complete without reading of the epic journey of cheese as it influences and is influenced by human civilization. Paul Kindstedt steers the reader through a vast sea of history with the steady, inspired hand and confidence of a seasoned captain of his subject. What a gift to the world of cheese!"--Gianaclis Caldwell, cheesemaker, Pholia Farm, and author of The Farmstead Creamery Advisor

"Given the vast amount that's been written about cheese down the centuries, the surprising absence of a scholarly work on the history of cheese is all the more remarkable. With Cheese and Culture, noted dairy scientist and author Paul Kindstedt has admirably filled this gap to an extent that should satisfy even the most avid cheese geek."--Kate Arding, co-founder, Culture magazine

Library Journal-
Kindstedt (food science, Univ. of Vermont) delivers an extensively researched and comprehensive history of cheese and its place in the development of Western civilization. Beginning with the ancient origins of cheese making and moving through the classical, medieval, and Renaissance periods to the modern era, the author examines the traditional cheeses that came about during each period and how they were tailored to the environment and culture of the time. Finally, he explores the friction that has developed between the United States and the European Union over issues surrounding cheese making and trade, such as protecting traditional product names, food safety regulation, and the use of new agricultural technologies such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and hormones. VERDICT: Incorporating archaeology, religion, and literature, this detailed, accessible history will appeal to readers who enjoy food histories.

Cheese scientist Kindstedt (Univ. of Vermont) has written a lively history of cheese through an examination of the cultural environments from which specific types of cheese-making traditions were born and, in some cases, have continued to the present. Kindstedt begins as early as possible with archaeological evidence of early fresh cheese making in the Fertile Crescent and its role in pre-Christian religious ritual. He quickly moves on to the introduction of rennet in cheese making and cheese in Greek and Roman civilizations and incorporation into daily life, both mundane and sacred. The last half of the book concentrates on the European cheese-making tradition and the role of monasteries in the development of aged cheeses. Surprisingly, Kindstedt does not spend too much time discussing factory-made cheese and the move away from traditional cheese making. But he does end with a timely discussion on raw milk safety and multinational trade laws that impact traditional cheeses, as well as a brief discussion on the artisanal cheese movement. Cheese and Culture is a well-researched, concise, and valuable addition to any food history collection. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through graduate students; general readers.

ForeWord Reviews-
Cheese, glorious cheese. Who knew the 9,000 years of innovation, lore, history, and romance in your story? Who knew skim milk cheeses initially flourished not for diet reasons, but because they were cheaper for London’s working-classes? That higher-temperature cooking techniques contributed to the development of dry and aged cheeses? Or that economics, religion, social mores, climate, and—well, nearly anything—has influenced the evolution of cheese in all its forms, styles, tastes, shapes, and uses? Paul S. Kindstedt knows, and now, through his impeccably researched, and carefully assembled book, any cheese lover can know, too.  Kindstedt’s is a book written with scholarly rigor; yet, that detail-laden precision also makes it palatable for foodies curious about how and why food choices, production, and tastes have emerged over centuries—the person jazzed to learn, for example, that ‘Grated cheese seems to have occupied a special place in Greek culture’ indicated by a wounded soldier being served ‘an elixir consisting of Pramnian wine on which (his slave) sprinkles goat’s-milk cheese, grated with a bronze grater,’ or that the seasonal movement of cows across south-central France inspired techniques for producing longer-lasting mountain cheeses. Like the range of cheeses available today, at times Cheese and Culture can be overwhelming, and the chapter on regulation reads like an alphabet soup of agency abbreviations and acronyms. But, like the veined or sharply flavored offerings on a cheese plate, one could choose to skip it and still be satiated.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing; F First Edition edition (April 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603584110
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603584111
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #786,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Paul Kindsted has written a detailed history from Cain and Abel to today. Much of the first 125 pages of the book deals with tribal and population movements and how they obtained their food. At points, the proof and evidence of cheese's history seems strained, reaching into ancients texts including the Bible for mention of curds and whey. There is much emphasis on the importance of cheese in "religious expression and cultic practices". Sometimes it seems as if the emergence of cheese involves much speculation on evidence left on shards of pottery. Throughout the book there are numerous citations in the text, for example (Casson 1954, Migeotte 2009). It can be a hindrance to smooth reading, but does add to the academic credibility.

Comparisons of embryology and rennet coagulation are made. Some statements might make a reader do a double take such as, "from the linage of David, a thousand years later, would come the son of a carpenter, whose influence on western civilization and cheese making was arguably greater than that of any other person."

The second half of the book dwells more with where specific types of cheeses were developed and how, why they wound up with certain flavors and physical characteristics. This book contains a multitude of facts, such as; the rise in grain production, how the product of bread cereals collapse in "Holland, the physical structure of peat bogs all leading to cheese production, the American Revolution and slave trade. The changes in regulations concerning cheese in the European Union and worldwide is also covered.
This is a book for readers wishing to delve deeply into cheese and a more massive amount of details that surround it.
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The author does a good job of covering the development of technologies that allowed cheese to be stored for long periods and shipped easily but does not provide much coverage of culinary aspects of cheese. In this book, history starts in the Middle East and then moves West and North, eventually going to England and the USA. We do learn that ancient peoples used grated cheese in cakes and wine but we don't learn how subsequent people ate cheese. The focus on cheese production and commerce is so strong that the reader can come away with the impression that Gouda and Edam cheeses differ principally in their coatings. The history ends at the beginning of the 20th Century with a discussion of Cheddar Cheese production in the USA and a discussion of recent trade disputes between the USA and the EU and safety issues.

Lots of topics were left out. Geographical coverage is limited. Most European countries, Latin America, and the non-ancient Middle Eastern countries do not get mentioned (India is briefly mentioned). Products like cottage cheese that don't keep long don't get much attention. How cheese was used in recipes was not mentioned.

To be fair I did learn some interesting things. For example, some ancient religions expected cheese tithes. Ancient Roman soldiers got cheese rations.
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Exceptionally good read if you are interested in cheese or how food is affected by and affects culture. Shared with a coworker who was equally engaged by it. Only drawback is a minor problem with the occasional missing word which seems odd for something written by an academic (sometimes you have a sentence that clearly should have included an 'an' 'the' or other small connective word). But it's not bothersome enough to throw you out of the text, and for an academic read it's not as typically dry and plodding as they usually are. My only caution is that it will make you CONSTANTLY hungry!!
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This book was OK, not great. I had hoped that this book would be to cheese what the book Salt was to ... well...salt, but it was a big let down.

First, it is really dry in the beginning the author did not do a very good job of telling a story. I was actually warned by others that this book was dry, but I said it was OK because I liked dry cheese. :-) He basically just wrote down facts. He didn't breath any life into the subject, I know several people who gave up on the book at this point. You have to get through the first 50 or 60 pages before the book gets interesting.

In addition, his Christian beliefs just permeated the book which really distracted from the subject. The author seems to focus almost the first half of the book on the Middle East. So much was spent just on Israel when I am sure that there was a lot to discussed in other parts of world in relation to cheese. I suspect that he has a great deal of interest in that part of the world because of his obvious beliefs.

Most chapters open with Bible quotes or quotes from Christians in history. Whenever he could think of the thinest execuse to go into long, and at times tedious detail, of Christianity he would do so for pages. At one point he even works in a discussion of gnosticism!!! A good editor should have cut a lot of this.

Please do not misunderstand me, I don't have anything against Christianity, but it was really a stretch to be so focused on Christianity in a book about cheese. If I want to read about Christianity, I will get a book on that subject. I wanted to read a book on Cheese. I mean rather than use all those pages discussing religion, it would have been great to read a discussion on cheese. He could have developed a better discussion on the various tyes and production methods.
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