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Comment: Ex-library book. The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly.
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Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge Paperback – January 21, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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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
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing; 1st 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 (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #414,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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This is a fantastic book. It is very accessible, and informative. I appreciated the author's story of growth from unemployed cleaner to seasoned cheese monger. The book is lively and well paced. Where it became a little bit tiresome for me is in all the underhanded wise cracks about Republicans and others who do not wish to live the "enlightened" lifestyle the author claims is his own. I believe people can live as they wish, which means conservatives, punks, and others can live as long as they do not harm society.

What I do not like is self-pious bilge implying one is morally superior to other when that lifestyle has problems as well. The author talks about not being commercial or giving in to corporate values, but finds no problem in consuming expensive cheese flown into San Francisco. No, it is not corporate, but it as selfish as being too corporate.

One example. The carbon foot print of bringing French alpine cheese to the city by the may is not too significant when one person does it, but if we were all to do it would be significant. Seriously, can one give up the fancy cheese for the environment and the betterment of all society. After all we only have one earth and so many cheeses closer to home.

Second complaint. The author chooses to eat fancy cheese. Good for him, but that does not make him superior to any one using their many in different ways. The book implies that this is the case. It is not. All it shows is a lifestyle that will flush many down the crapper for a moment of culinary bliss. That is all this lifestyle does because of its temporal focus.

Still, an enjoyable read that is only slightly marred by the political of the author.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really enjoyed this book. I had no idea what a cheesemonger even was and I thought this was going to be about someone who makes cheese. I was not disappointed when I read further and further and found myself absorbed into the punk rocker authors unlikely personal journey into the intricate complicated and interesting world of cheese. It was great learning along with the author who admittedly knew nothing about cheese when he started working in the cheese market. He takes you with him on his exploration and eventual passion for all aspects of cheese. It is well done and covers many topics with a very personal view. It draws you into the world of cheese gently, without intimidation even if you have no knowledge of cheese. You will come away having learned many wondrous things about it and find yourself taking notes on what to look for in that big scary sea of fermented fromage. I would recommend this book it is funny, educational and a very enjoyable book I couldn't put down. Nice job!
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