Friday, August 2, 2013

Book review - Cheese: The World's Best Artisan Cheeses by Patricia Michelson

Instead of writing about a particular cheese this week, I thought I'd mention a great book which I have carried around the world.  I am talking about "Cheese: The World's Best Artisan Cheeses, a journey through taste, tradition and terroir", by Patricia Michelson.

Patricia runs the famous La Fromagerie in Marylebone, London, which I wrote about last year (read it here).  My mother gave us Patricia's book for Christmas in 2011 not long before we left New Zealand on our trip around the world, and we took it with us on our travels, adding notes on the cheeses we tasted.  Mostly this was in the UK and on the West Coast of the USA - we felt we had made notes on lots of cheeses, but when we look at all the ones in the book we haven't tasted, we realise we have many more trips to come in the future!  Sadly when we visited La Fromagerie in London, we were not able to meet Patricia and show her our well-travelled book, but we did marvel at the number of cheeses in the famous cheese room.

The book is broken down into regions of the world - The British Isles & Ireland; France; Alpine Europe; Italy; Spain & Portugal; The Rest of Europe; USA & Canada; Australia & New Zealand.  Then within each zone the cheeses are broken down further into sub-regions.  The book isn't a comprehensive list of all cheeses in the world (there are many less-well known cheeses and regions not covered at all), but that would be almost impossible.  Instead, each cheese is presented with a few paragraphs (and sometimes a full page) of background information about the cheese makers, the farm, its history, the manufacturing process, or a description of how it is often eaten.  This is done in an informative and neutral way, rather than telling the reader what they should and shouldn't like.  Patricia never comes across as judgmental or more important than the cheese makers.  And the photos in this book are really good - they show the cheeses beautifully and there is a photo for almost every cheese described.

At the back of the book there are also some recipes and useful tips for serving and caring for cheese, but I personally don't focus on these because the main part of the book is such good reference material.  Sometimes I find myself just flicking through the book, looking at cheeses and imagining a new trip to visit a particular region.

All in all, I would recommend this book for anyone that is passionate about cheese.  Use it either as a coffee table book or as a reference book or even a journey planner!  We certainly found it useful on our trip around California and Oregon, helping us pick out a few locations to detour to along the way.  My only disappointment is the small size of the section on New Zealand cheeses.  I'm sure there are more cheeses in this country worthy of the world's attention - but then I am biased.  I shall have to work on this!

The book has travelled well with us - showing here some notes from our brief time in Oregon.

1 comment:

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