Cheese and Culture
Behind every traditional type of cheese there lies a fascinating story
of how it came to be. By examining the role of the cheesemaker
throughout world history, and exploring a few basic principles of cheese
science and technology, author Paul Kindstedt (American Farmstead
Cheese) shows how different cheese have been shaped by and tailored to
their surrounding environment, as well as defined by their social and
Cheese and Culture tells the story of how
cheese history intersects with some of the pivotal periods in human
history and in many cases shaped the lives of cheesemakers and the
diverse cheeses they developed.
Kindstedt has composed a grand
narrative that binds all cheeses together into a single history, one
that started with the discovery of cheese making in the Neolithic Age
and that is still unfolding to this day.
DESCRIPTION: "Cheese and Culture" A History of Cheese and its place in Western Civilization, by Paul Kindstedt (288 pages, hardcover) A comprehensive look at the 9,000-year history of cheese, the ways in which it has shaped civilization, and what it can tell us about the future of food.
Behind every traditional type of cheese there is a fascinating story. By examining the role of the cheesemaker throughout world history and by understanding a few basic principles of cheese science and technology, we can see how different cheeses have been shaped by and tailored to their surrounding environment, as well as defined by their social and cultural context. Cheese and Culture endeavors to advance our appreciation of cheese origins by viewing human history through the eyes of a cheese scientist.
There is also a larger story to be told, a grand narrative that binds all cheeses together into a single history that started with the discovery of cheese making and that is still unfolding to this day. This book reconstructs that 9000-year story based on the often fragmentary information that we have available. Cheese and Culture embarks on a journey that begins in the Neolithic Age and winds its way through the ensuing centuries to the present. This tour through cheese history intersects with some of the pivotal periods in human prehistory and ancient, classical, medieval, renaissance, and modern history that have shaped western civilization, for these periods also shaped the lives of cheesemakers and the diverse cheeses that they developed. The book offers a useful lens through which to view our twenty-first century attitudes toward cheese that we have inherited from our past, and our attitudes about the food system more broadly.
This refreshingly original book will appeal to anyone who loves history, food, and especially good cheese.
Article from the Washington Post
The long arc of
human history has produced astonishing developments in technology,
medicine, culture and many other facets of life. Focusing on one such
element and tracing its progression through the centuries can be a risky
proposition, and it helps if you have a subject that matters in
everyday life. Let’s say cheese.
Paul S. Kindstedt’s new book
focuses on that food, which has been with us for eons. Cheese was firmly
entrenched in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt; the Punic Wars between
Rome and Carthage would, among other effects, “influence cheesemaking
for centuries to come”; cheesemaking was one of many factors causing
colonists in New England to rely heavily on slave labor. Kindstedt
points out that cheese made in Rhode Island was sent to the West Indies
in exchange for molasses, which was used to make rum in New England, and
the rum, in turn, was used to purchase slaves.
Culture” is billed as a history of cheese, which doesn’t really do the
book justice. Kindstedt gives ample context for each development. The
star dairy product will disappear for pages at a time while he lays the
groundwork for the next shift in methodology or emergence of a new
cheese making region. We also learn, too briefly, about how dairymaids
dominated cheese making for centuries, to the extent that dairywomen
were caretakers of “secret knowledge” passed down from generation to
The book emerged from a class Kindstedt teaches at
the University of Vermont. There are times when it comes across as more
of an academic work than a flowing narrative. Your interest in this book
will probably correlate to your interest in history and, of course,
cheese. But it’s hard not to enjoy a book that pauses to explore the
cheesemaking technique of the cyclops in Homer’s “Odyssey.”
- Mark Berman
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