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The Cheese Chronicles: A Journey Through the…

The Cheese Chronicles: A Journey Through the Making and Selling of Cheese…

by Liz Thorpe

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A journey through the making and selling of cheese in America, from farm to table.
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
I am enlightened. This easy-to-read book details one woman's journey to becoming a cheese expert for Murray's, with detailed recommendations about the best cheeses world-wide and why they are extraordinary. Some of the cheeses I know well, such as my very favorite, Vella. I've had Cypress Grove goat cheese (and bought a new one last week, and was delighted to see it included in this book). But there are so. Many. Other. Cheeses. Really, this book is like a wish list for anyone who loves cheese.

The only reason I gave this four stars instead of five is the organization. The flow is choppy and nonsensical at times; I think a lot of that may be poor formatting for ebook, which is a shame. However, I was glad to find a straightforward index at the back so I can look up cheese names and easily search for them within the book or online. ( )
  ladycato | Jun 7, 2017 |
This book is kind of fascinating but I can't pin down exactly why.

The author was the cheese buyer for a famous cheese shop in New York that supplied the top restaurants. As such her job took her to just about every single cheese-making operation in the US.

We aren't talking about Kraft Slices or Shur-fine here, no we are talking grass-fed, goat, sheep or cow-milk cheese "covered in a bloomy white mould with a line of ash" through the middle with a taste that can be described only by resorting to the cheese version of wine-talk. Wine talk has always struck me as extremely pretentious and meaningful only to those in the know, cheese is a bit more straightforward. After all, there really isn't any way of getting round the fact that goat's cheese smells and tastes of a whiff, or stronger, of rank old goat.

Either cheese-making is unbelievably simple or the author wasn't telling us the full story: curdle the milk, scoop off the curd, pat it into shape or stick it in a form, expose it to moulds and bacteria and store it and then when its aged days, weeks or months, sell it. Sounds simple doesn't it? But some elements of cheese-making, like introducing ash into the cheese (what ash? wood or charcoal? an old ciggie butt?) and washing it (how often? lather up first? dunked in the bath or just a spritz) are never explained.

So, the author, a woman with a strong and bumptious personality and very healthy ego, tours what seem to be every farm in Vermont, Wisconsin, California and more. She takes particular delight in cheese made from animals that live in pastures and are grass-fed, and this I very much approve of. I'm from a village where there were just two lanes and one of them was Cowshit Lane ('cowshit' wasn't considered rude back in Elizabethan times when the farm was established). Twice a day the animals would go up and down the lane, milking parlour to meadow. The milk didn't go into cheese though, and having read that this would make the best cheese, I'm really sorry it didn't.

So what did I learn from this book? That the best cheese is to be found made by ex-city execs who made their bucks young and bought into the ideal of organic farms but then applied their business sense and turned to cheese-making. I learned that top TV chefs are an absolute pushover for these cheeses, the more expensive and rare the better. But I also learned that the very same cheeses can be bought at Farmers Markets at a price the locals will pay.

I didn't learn what made the book so fascinating, but it was.

( )
  Petra.Xs | Apr 2, 2013 |
I love cheese. I eat it for breakfast lunch and dinner. And though I can enjoy a fancy cheese purchased at a cheesemonger or cheese counter of a local gourmet shop, and though I know the basics of dairy, such as grass fed is better than confinement grain-fed or the downside of pasteurization, I really am not very educated in the world of cheese. I like to know more about the different types, how to really taste the differences, and how to branch out and try something new. Where to start?

This book is an excellent place to start. But this isn't just a survey of cheese made in America. This is much more than that. Author Liz Thorpe also weaves in her personal story of being a girl who loves cheese who eventually comes to work at Murray's Cheese in NYC. It was inspiring to read about how she ditched her office job to work at a cheese store. She also wove in stories of her travels around the US, tasting cheese, visiting farms, and reviewing cheeses with chefs.

Thorpe also does an excellent job teaching about cheese. She explains pasteurization and why it is sometimes preferred and sometimes not. She explains the history of goat cheese in the USA. She describes a washed rind cheese and how that is different from a bloomy rind, for example.

Finally, each chapter includes a section on American cheesemakers and highlights some of their cheeses. She might talk about the physical location of the farms (verdant green hills, usually), or the history of the farmer. And she describes the cheese and what makes it good. I read these descriptions, and my mouth watered. Within days, I found myself at a local cheese monger trying various cheeses from the book. And I was not disappointed. This book led me straight to some great cheeses I never would have tried before.

I highly recommend this book. Eminently readable, it is something to keep on your shelf and refer back to. I'd like to get a copy for myself and try every cheese in there. ( )
  stacyinthecity | Dec 24, 2009 |
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For David, As the Big Bad Wolf said, "All the better to see you with, my dear."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061451169, Paperback)

The Cheese Chronicles is an insider's look at the burgeoning world of American cheese from one lucky person who has seen more wedges and wheels, visited more cheesemakers, and tasted more delicious (and occasionally stinky) American cheese than anyone else. Liz Thorpe, second in command at New York's renowned Murray's Cheese, has used her notes and conversations from hundreds of tastings spanning nearly a decade to fashion this odyssey through the wonders of American cheese. Offering more than eighty profiles of the best, the most representative, and the most important cheesemakers, Thorpe chronicles American cheesemaking from the brave foodie hobbyists of twenty years ago (who put artisanal cheese on the map) to the carefully cultivated milkers and makers of today.

Thorpe travels to the nation's cheese farms and factories, four-star kitchens and farmers' markets, bringing you along for the journey. In her quest to explore cheesemaking, she high-lights the country's greatest cheeses and concludes that today's cheesemakers can help provide more nourishing and sensible food for all Americans.

Steve Jenkins, author of the celebrated Cheese Primer, calls this "the best book about cheese you'll ever read." The Cheese Chronicles is a cultural history of an industry that has found breakout success and achieved equal footing with its European cousins.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:38 -0400)

The Cheese Chronicles is a cultural history of an industry that has found breakout success and achieved equal footing with its European cousins.

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