Cheese lovers, book nerds, foodies, animal lovers, humorists and travel hounds, Liz Thorpe‘s ‘The Cheese Chronicles’ has something for everyone. Well, so as long as you’re sticking with those topics. Looking to brush up on sailing techniques? This is not the book for you, but want to hear a humorous synopsis of Liz’s day of cheesemaking while hungover and a beautiful description of the menu at French Laundry? Liz doesn’t disappoint.
Here’s a little about Liz straight from her site:
‘A Yale graduate, Liz Thorpe left a “normal” job in 2002 to follow her passion for cheese by working the counter at New York’s Murray’s Cheese, where she became the company’s first Vice President. During her ten years with Murray’s Liz expanded the wholesale business, worked with the best chefs in the country, coauthored The Murray’s Cheese Handbook, and wrote The Cheese Chronicles. Liz managed Murray’s partnership with Kroger, the nation’s largest traditional supermarket chain, and furthered both companies’ mission to bring better cheese to America.’
If you are reading a food blog, I’m going to assume you already know about Mecca here on Earth, otherwise known as Murray’s Cheese. This gem serves as the gold standard for all cheese shops and many food retailers, in general. If you are a cheese lover, hell even just a food lover, you should be in the loop about Murray’s fascinating history. In case you need a little brush up, here’s an excerpt from their own site, as well:
‘Founded in 1940 by Murray Greenberg, Murray’s is proud to be a Greenwich Village-based business and part of the neighborhood’s rich food history. Murray was a Jewish veteran of the Spanish Civil War who was rumored to be a Communist – but pay no mind, he was a smart capitalist who built a great reputation for the business. In the 70s, Murray sold the shop to his clerk Louis Tudda, an Italian immigrant from Calabria. In those days, it was a humble butter and eggs shop that had a lot of block cheeses and catered to the little Italian enclave that Bleecker Street was at the time. Rob Kaufelt bought the Murray’s in the early 90s and began traveling the globe, finding new cheeses that no one had ever heard of and bringing them back to the US. The main thing that makes Murray’s special is our passion for cheese – we share that with our friends and customers, whether you’re visiting one of our shops in New York, stopping by a Murray’s kiosk at your local supermarket, trolling on our web site, taking a class with us, or working with our wholesale department for your restaurant.’
The Cheese Chronicles is a fun, easy read that will help you develop a better vocabulary when it comes to culinary terms as well as make you salivate for cheeses you have yet to get your hands on. It’s also so very awesome to learn the history behind some of America’s truly beautiful cheeses and the somewhat short history behind the American dairy industry and those who are ‘doing it right’ – meaning proper animal husbandry, no shortcuts, or the type of factory mass production that leads to processed garbage.
Here are a few little excerpts from her book. As you can see, she’s informative, intelligent, interesting and funny. Sorry, there are no words that start with ‘i’ that mean funny.
‘My point is, something about cheese speaks to people, the way it spoke to me when I was trying to get out of my fluorescent cubicle in midtown Manhattan. When I take the time to look at them, lined up in the shiny glass case, they’re like little people. There are the fat, runny ones and I worry that no one will take them home and eat them in time. There are the austere, intellectual cheeses that require patient consideration to “get” and appreciate. There are the loud, flashy ones, like the Bentleys of cheese, that everyone, every time, is impressed by, and even the people who don’t care about cars acknowledge the solid engineering.’
‘They all look different, and down in the caves at Murray’s each wheel contributes its mold spores and earthen reek to the walls and air, slowly seasoning the damp wood shelving. In the goat cave, dozens of small rounds and pyramids slowly grow fur, evolving into something minerally and hay-ey, with a milky creamline under their tri-color rinds. It’s like watching the grass grow, only you can, because every day the cheeses change.’
Or one of my favorite paragraphs:
‘One room devoted to a single cheese, or maybe a handful of cheeses, each wheel struggling to become something really memorable. The young wheels are all white and crumbly, naked, with the beginnings of grey mold or red bacteria that look like some invasive virus taking over. Further down the aisle are the teenagers, mature enough to play dress-up, but tasting wobbly and shallow, with no depth or character. In the evening in any cheese cave, when the floors have been swept and the shelves scrubbed down, you can walk through and see the orderly rows, all labeled and resting on their racks, like children put to bed.’
So my foodie reading friends, pick up Liz’s book and have yourself a lovely Saturday read. It’s truly a pleasure to read this book. But, be warned, you will spend your next few paychecks purchasing some of Liz’s favorites.