Tuesday, January 17, 2023

American Cheese: An Indulgent Odyssey Through the Artisan Cheese World by Joe Berkowitz


This book was really great until I got bored and started to skim. (Skim like... milk???) There's nothing wrong with the book objectively-- it's one of those documentary-style books, and the author definitely does exactly what the subtitle promises: he goes on a very self-indulgent journey through the cheese world and tells us allllll about it. To the point where if the book was a passenger on a bus, I might have changed seats.

The problem is that it's just a little too long for what it accomplishes. There are only so many times I can take a "Wow, this cheese is SO artisinal!" (How artisinal IS it?) call-and-response type format before I start to lose my mind. I think part of the problem is that it straddles the line between being informational and being anecdotal. If it were more informational, it might have helped if this book were organized into sections about various manufacturers or cheese types, so all the info was in one place and wasn't repeated throughout the book. If he were going for a more anecdotal route, I would have liked it if he focused more on the action and the senses and the tastes and less on some of his personal musings and ramblings.

Here are some of my takeaways: Jasper Hill and Cowgirl Creamery are amazing and it was a delight to see them get so much love in this book. YAAAASS cheese science! Even gross facts like knowing that some cheese smells like feet because they contain bacteria that really do grow on feet (ew). I now know that there is a museum out there that has a secret cheese parties that's like the Finer Things Club from The Office but with cheese and if this doesn't make you think that museum curators are the coolest, you're beyond salvation, I'm sorry. And did I really just read a description of two people who have a secret handshake where they pretend to "milk" each other's fingers like cow udders?? NO THANKS. Also, I really need someone to take me to a cheese ball, okay. And no, not the snack. An actual gala where cheese is served. PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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