It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be oversophisticated.
Yet it remains cheese, milk's leap toward immortality. -- Clifton Fadiman
I love cheese like a 5-year-old loves birthday cake--an enthusiastic, unabashedly over-the-top, dive-in-head-first kind of a love. So when I found my mailbox stuffed with a reader's copy of Immortal Cheese, a book devoted to cheese and the adventures of a fellow cheese enthusiast, I gave a little squeak of joy. Turns out, though, that for me the hero of this book was not just its author, but also his partner in cheese and future wife, a woman known only as Chuck.
Title & Publisher: Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese, by Eric LeMay. Published by Simon & Schuster, 2010.
First impressions:This is a smallish, hardcover book, just over 240 pages. There are occasional illustrations, photos and diagrams scattered throughout, a comprehensive appendix that explores various cheese pairings, and a list of resources.
The angle: Each chapter explores a specific cheese along with a theme: Stilton and Jane Austen, Tomme and terroir, stinky cheese and poetry. I was a little disappointed in the Wisconsin chapter, which focuses on the Bud Light and cheese curds offerings of a cheese festival while completely ignoring the many amazing, award-winning artisanal cheeses the state produces. And the Feeling Cheesey chapter, which explores in length the word 'cheesy', could have been skipped completely.
That said, the rest of the book is a cheese lover's delight, due in part to its secret author and most interesting character, the author's sidekick (now wife) known only as Chuck. Her opinions and antics add a funny, endearing tone to the book which in fact seems to belong as much to her as it does to him.
Recipes for right now: There are no recipes but the final quarter of the book is dedicated to Chuck's Picks and offers some of the most interesting cheese paring suggestions I've ever encountered. There are of course the usual pairings: wine, honey, olives, various cured meats. And the slightly off-beat: beer (but perhaps only odd if you weren't raised in Wisconsin) and fruit preserves. And then there's the excitingly bizarre: chocolate, coffee, whiskey.
In my opinion, this appendix is the best part of the book, which leaves me a little puzzled as to how one quarter of the book could be authored by someone whose name doesn't appear on the cover or title page. Chuck's presence in the book's video (above) helps to redeem this oversight and I hope she continues to take her place on the stage with Mr. LeMay.
Recommended? Yes, especially if you're a cheese enthusiast which is different, as Mr. LeMay points out, than being a cheese expert. "An expert heads out and confronts what an enthusiast leaps into and embraces." This is just the kind of book one could happily leap into, preferably with a nice wedge of Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk and a glass of Alsatian riesling at your elbow.
• Buy the book: Immortal Milk by Eric LeMay, $14.85 (Amazon) due June 1, 2010
• Immortal Milk, the website
More 2010 Book Reviews
• My Favorite Ingredients by Skye Gyngell
• In the Green Kitchen by Alice Waters
• Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce
(Images: Immortal Milk)