Sunday, November 29, 2020

Review: American Cheese: An Indulgent Odyssey Through the Artisan Cheese World

American Cheese: An Indulgent Odyssey Through the Artisan Cheese World American Cheese: An Indulgent Odyssey Through the Artisan Cheese World by Joe Berkowitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Squeezing this in for Nonfiction November - this book looks at American cheese (all cheese, not just the bright orange variety I always called "plastic cheese.") The author examines the industry, visits cheese conventions, cheese competitions, and follows people who are training to be cheesemongers. He visits small producers trying to make names for themselves, including Rogue River Creamery before they won the award for best cheese in the world...I blame this book for the taste of it that I felt compelled to order! But the author is hitting the American Cheese stride right as the world is starting to pay attention, so that's good timing, or it would have been, if only tariffs hadn't gone up that negatively impacted the export of cheese, the import of the manufacturing equipment required to make it, and more people are forgoing travel at all much less culinary travel to obscure cheese producing locations. (We have traveled some of the WNC Cheese Trail so we know obscure mountain cheese locations!)

This book is more about the people surrounding cheese and the obscure culture of the beliefs and practices of those people. It's like an ethnography of a separate culture living amidst the rest of us. And while you will learn about some of the cheeses of America at the same time, it's not really the focus. The author was funded to travel to write this book so he threw in a trip to France as well (smart although his description of the French cheese made me more curious about their cheese than ours, particularly some of those Alpine cheeses. Sign me up!)

I still enjoyed most of the book aside from a few strange word choices (kibbutz for a not even obscure use but unknown and I don't think it works; yeet in a way that should not be used unless you are a tiktok teenager- how will the old people who buy this book at Costco know what he means? I had a review copy so perhaps they fixed it.)

A similar book to this, about French cheese and really focuses on the cheese that I would recommend, perhaps as a companion book to this one, is The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese by Kathe Lison, which remains my favorite single ingredient book I've read.

I had a review copy of this from the publisher through Edelweiss. It came out October 6, 2020. You will be amazed how much cheese you can order off the internet to have delivered to your house because this book will make you hungry.

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