Kathe Lison knows a lot about cheese. In fact, she grew up in the cheese capitol of the US – Wisconsin. Her quest for more knowledge about cheese did not stop at Wisconsin’s border – she went to the cheese capitol of the world – France.
I confess that I had a little bit of difficulty getting into the book. Then after a chapter or two, I started to enjoy it more.
In the first chapter Lison mentions the quote, ” How can you govern a country with over 300 cheeses?”
Immediately I thought about a train scene from the movie French Kiss starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. Meg’s character, Kate, eats some cheese even though she has a dairy allergy. (You can see a snippet of the movie with the train scene starting at 1:11 here.)
Yes, France has many cheeses. It’s a big deal. There is the appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) (controlled designation of origin) certification that many cheese makers strive to have on their creations.
The author visited artisanal cheese makers whose families have been making cheese for generations. She explains how important the terroir, or earth, is to cheese makers. Also, the breed of cow can make a difference in a cheese. Let’s not forget, too, that cheeses are not all made from cow’s milk. She discusses that as well.
Lison is a good writer and writes in a down-to-earth style. It seems to have been a well-researched book. However, I think the book would have been been nicer had color photos of some of the places she visited and the cheeses she sampled were included.
After reading the book, I had to do a little research on some of the topics that she included. Here are some of the things I discovered, thanks to The Whole Fromage:
- The most expensive cheese is Pule and costs $576 – $616 per pound, depending on your source. Pule is made from donkey’s milk and is made in Serbia.
- Rennet is an enzyme taken from a cow’s fourth stomach used to make cheese. (Want to make some rennet at home?
- Want to see what a cow’s stomach looks like? Julia Child had a segment on Tripes a la Mode.
- Some cheeses are made with the help of cheese mites. Yikes! You might want to rethink getting that piece of Mimolette.
- Eating some cheese after dinner has some dental benefits. The calcium and phosphate work to counteract acid in the mouth.
- Ever bite into a piece of cheese and notice some small, crunchy crystal structures? I have and had no clue that I was eating tyrosine, a type of amino acid that forms in a well-aged cheese.
- Happy cows actually are more productive. Go ahead and “love on” Bessie.
- A French sheep farmer dismantled a McDonald’s under construction – that is how important food purity is to the French.
- The Queen of England receives farm subsidies – to the tune of 224K £ per year. Who would have thunk? I thought of Queen Elizabeth in overalls makes me giggle.
There is more in the book to discover, and if you are interested you can purchase it at your local bookstore or at Amazon.com.