A Cheesemonger's Book Club Meeting

There is a book club for readers of every interest. Being an avid foodie, I tend to read food-related books, so you can envision my delight when I found the Atlanta Food Literature book club devoted to food memoirs, food science and food anthropology. For my first meeting, we read Cheesemonger by Gordon Edgar.

The prospect of a memoir from the world of artisanal cheeses might initially conjure visions of an insufferable snob waxing unreadable about the truffles of a lifetime, but happily, none of that is true of Cheesemonger. Instead, it is a funny, big-hearted crash course on the subject of cheese from barn to store to table, this book is also about other things: punk rock, political activism, and the distinctive bond between a grocery store and the community it's rooted in.

What makes Cheesemonger unique is that it's part memoir, part food reference. He weaves a great tale of how he went from a punk rocker and activist to being a "cheesemonger," all while peppering in his cheese knowledge and well-told anecdotes of loopy customers, shady salespeople, and urban foodies. Gritty, opinionated and pragmatic, Edgar discusses the politics of land trusts, the romance and reality of artisan cheese makers, the snobbery that keeps people from exploring cheese and the storytelling that has become a part of the foodie movement where every meal has a back story. Although there is specific information about cheese sprinkled throughout, along with a solid appendix in the back of the book, this is much more than a cheese primer.

And what would a book club be without the accompanying food? Given the topical nature of the monthly book, everyone brought cheese! Along with sliced almonds in honey and fresh grapes, our club’s cheese board included:
  • Pierre Robert – France; aged pasteurized cow’s milk cheese, very soft paste; creamy and faintly sour with a little “sting” at the end.
  • HervĂ© Mons St. Nuage Brie – France; triple-cream cow; decadent richness with a soft, whipped texture, stinky yet refined balance of flavors.
  • Fourme D’Ambert Lameme – France; pasteurized cow inoculated with Penicillium roqueforti; very mild bleu with creamy texture and a clean finish.
  • Cave-aged Gouda – Holland; pasteurized cow; sharp-caramel taste, almost smoky, but not quite with a little “crunch."
  • Scarmoza – Italy; pasteurized cow, stretched curd; elastic, dense and mild with less moisture than mozzarella.
  • Six-month-aged Manchego – Spain; unpasteurized sheep; firm and creamy with a slight piquancy.
  • Humboldt Fog – California; goat’s milk; edible mold and ash rind are is fairly tasteless; creamy, light, and mildly acidic with a stronger flavor near the rind.
  • Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam – California; unpasteurized cow, triple cream; pungent, smooth and buttery with hints of white mushroom.
  • Caly Road Creamery Little Epiphany – Georgia; Crottin-style aged cow; sharp and sour notes with a bright finish.
  • Rogue Oregon Bleu – Oregon; unpasteurized cow; clean, briny flavor, notes of sweet cream and veins of mellow, earthy blue molds.
Since the best book club meetings have a guest speaker or an interview with the author, we are including a video interview with the author, “Gordonzola” Edgar for your viewing pleasure.

And, lastly it wouldn’t be a book club without the questions. So please share with us your favorite cheese in the comments section.