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Cheese and Culture

Item #:B35 

Cheese and Culture

Retail: $24.95    Our Price: $22.95
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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 cultural context.

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.

“Cheese and 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 generation.

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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