Warning: Reading this book will make you very, very hungry.
Author Joe Berkowitz, an editor and staff writer at Fast Company magazine, wanted to get his wife an amazing Valentine’s Day gift. He booked two seats for a tasting at Murray’s, a Manhattan cheese shop. As Berkowitz sampled cheeses that ranged in flavor from milky to dank (his word), his eyes were opened. “It wasn’t just the taste of one spectacular cheese though,” he writes. “It was the dawning realization that cheese was a miracle food, an edible unicorn. So many things needed to go just right in order for each one we’d tried that night to reach us and taste the way it did.”
In the entertaining and informative American Cheese: An Indulgent Odyssey Through the Artisan Cheese World, Berkowitz dives deep into the fascinating world of American cheesemaking. Although our country is fairly late to the centuries-old cheese party, some of the best cheeses in the world come from places like Vermont and Northern California. Berkowitz travels to festivals, competitions and a Parisian cheese cave to understand this delicious and varied food and the people who make it.
“The cheese world is made up of misfits, rebels, rogues, and romantics; venturing forth from all corners of the country, leaving their old lives behind, to work with something tactile and tasty that they truly love,” he writes. “In the year and a half that followed my cheese awakening, I would meet former accountants, psychologists, literary agents, and many others whose professions had involved open offices, Slack channels, and stand-up meetings first thing in the morning.” Berkowitz also meets food scientists, restauranteurs and Erika Kubick, a blogger who put on a cheese-themed burlesque show called (what else?) Strip Cheese.
Berkowitz writes with unbridled glee about the subject of “cakey blues and bloomy rinds and marbly cheddars.” The result is a thorough, fascinating and hunger-inducing (but never cheesy) examination of the culture of cheesemaking.