Cheesemonger by Gordon Edgar
By: Gordon Edgar.Publisher: Chelsea Green, 256 pages, $17.95.
Review: Gordon Edgar's memoir of being a cheese-selling punk rocker meanders and rambles, but if you stick with it you'll be charmed by his sincerity and lovely descriptions.
Cheeses! You won't believe this culinary journey
- Article by: SUSAN AGER
- Special to the Star Tribune
- February 27, 2010 - 3:44 PM
A punk rocker grows up to buy and sell cheese at a store with the word "rainbow" in its name, then dares to think his life is worth a book.
He's right, but it's the kind that might annoy you on every other page.
I can't imagine the gentle Gordon Edgar insisted on his own way, but it appears his editor took a long vacation. In the quirky "Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge," Edgar repeats himself, tells stories that have nothing even vaguely to do with punk or cheese, rants a lot and wanders hither and yon, circling ever back to punk, creating associations between cheese and punk that took my breath away.
Here's one: "A fair amount of learning about cheese involves embracing the desirability of mold. Much about growing up punk in the 1980s was about trying to break out of the mold we felt society was trying to put us into."
Weird, huh? Don't say I didn't warn you.
But if you love cheese, and don't take it or yourself too seriously, you'll love Edgar's small but sincere story of how he came to sell it, what he's learned about it, what he's witnessed at farms where it's made, how cheese reps shamelessly market their goods to folks like him, how he seriously wounded himself on a cheese toothpick and more, much more.
Most fun for me were his punkish, puckish descriptions of some of the best cheeses that cows, sheep, goats and humans have ever, working together, produced.
Of Explorateur, a French triple-cream Brie, he writes: "Rich, creamy, mushroomy, buttery, with the texture of silk, this is the perfect cheese to get you laid." Of Winnemere, from Jasper Hill in Vermont, which he calls his favorite American cheese: It's "like eating your way through a bacon forest in autumn."
Did this guy do too much drugs in his youth?
I don't know and I don't care. I like him. I like that he walks from his rental apartment to his job at the Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco. I like that he grew up on Velveeta and Kraft singles, as I did. I like that he romanticizes his punk past: We "tried to make the most of our actions, to be the eyedropper full of change in the fifty-gallon vat."
And I like that he's come to know and love cheese and its makers, that he responds to customers with respect, whatever variety they buy, even the woman who asked him to cut the rind off a chunk of (expensive) Parmigiano Reggiano because "I don't see why I should have to pay for something I don't want."
That story is near the end of the book, and his answer is worth its price.
Susan Ager is a former Detroit Free Press columnist. Reach her at email@example.com
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