In honor of National Cheese Day earlier this month, I’ve come up with a list of five non-fiction cheese books. Cheese has been an obsession throughout my life; the stinkier, the better. My nostalgia is for the cheeses of repute without names; I’ll never forget the amazing pungent cheese with a saint’s name that I had in northern France on July 11th, 2007. I have yet to identify what the cheese could be.
Recently, with the aid of a kit, I’ve started making my own cheeses with nothing more than a few materials and a gallon of whole milk. In honor of the great world of cheese, here are the five books of note. I do want to note that most of the books are from a Western European/U.S. perspective; I would love to see books about cheese or dairy products elsewhere such as Cotija and Chihuahua from Mexico or even Butter Tea from Tibet.
Cheese and Culture: A History of Cheese and Its Place in Western Culture by Paul Kindstedt
This work provides a very broad history about cheese, starting with prehistoric times through the current day. It’s a bit broad but I do appreciate several insights that Kinstedt points out. Notably, he points out how cheesemaking for many centuries was the domain of women, using the milk to provide long term food for the family. However, in a pattern that repeats itself over and over, cheesemaking becomes male-dominated when the industry is recognized for its money making potential and mechanised. I see my own cheesemaking as part of this long standing female tradition.
The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese by Kathe Lison
Lison’s work is a delightful series of essays about her travels throughout France. It really makes me want to pack up my bags and do my own cheese-themed road trip of France. One of the key themes of the book is this tension between old and new school ways of making cheese. Notably, she talks about the cheese war over the definition of Camembert—can it be made with processed milk? She also talks about how Roquefort, one of the first cheeses to get to coveted Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) distinction, has benefited from every new innovation.
The Cheese Chronicles: A Journey Through the Making and Selling of Cheese in America, From Field to Farm to Table by Liz Thorpe
This work is a loving tribute to the U.S. cheese industry. Divided by types of cheese and process, Thorpe discusses the cheeses made by numerous farms throughout the U.S. If you’re looking for a good overview of the U.S. cheesemakers, this work is for you. It’s practically a grocery list of cheeses you should try.
Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese by Brad Kessler
Brad Kessler details how he and his wife, Dona, buy a house and land in rural Vermont and raise Nubian goats. It’s a man’s meditation on his relationship to his goats and the attempt to reconnect with the land. As an unapologetic city girl, even I was seduced by Kessler’s idyllic dream of raising goats and using their cheese for daily food.
French Cheeses: The Visual Guide to More than 350 Cheeses from Every Region in France by Kazuko Masui and Tomoko Yamada
To aid in my proposed cheese road trip of France, French Cheeses provides the visual map for my journey. Filled with photos and descriptions, this work is a comprehensive work to aid the reader in their quest for diverse cheeses. Sadly, I was not able to identify my cheese.
Interested in more books about cheese and other food? I talk about Gordon Edgar’s two books about cheese in my post on Food History.
Or if you want to try something novel, check out this post about famous authors and their recipes. Personally, I want to try Tolstoy’s macaroni and cheese recipe!