Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Review: The Summer of a Thousand Cheeses

By Russ and Peg Hall

When you read that two retired academics decided to delve into the rebirth of "The New American Cheeses," you think, what could they possibly bring to the table?

Russ was a professor, research scientist and government science manager.  Peg was a public school teacher, university administrator, and professor.  What do they know about cheese?

Well, the answer is that they didn't know anything about it.  Mostly, they didn't know the enormity of their undertaking.  There are entire books written about the material they tackle on every other page.

Interestingly, they were unfazed by this and they pressed on, through the history of American cheese, how cheese is made, who are the New American Cheesemakers, who is selling and buying these cheeses, the pasteurized vs raw issue, etc, etc.

Remarkedly, they even taught themselves to make cheese (results at right).  It's refreshing to read about their experiences with this, because they give us the beginner perspective.  A lot of that is available in blogs (like ours!) but you rarely find it in one of the chapters of a reference book.  (Many of you will relate to the name of this chapter- "Bricks, Shortening Cans, Dented Sinks and Plastic Caves.")

There is another interesting chapter about mainstream cheesemaking.  After all, these was the cheeses they grew up with.  In a chapter called, "Velveeta for Everyday, Cheddar at Christmas," they give a snapshot of the cheese situation before the recent renaissance.

 In short, this book is loaded with good information, hundreds of black and white photographs and excellent analysis of the New American Cheese situation.   We think these two academics deserve to get phDs for this book!


Peg said...

Thanks so much for the compliment! We surely enjoyed doing the research and writing the book. I hope to have a chance to meet you in person in Seattle.

Jeri said...

You're welcome! Ricki's daughter and I will be manning a table there so come by and say hi.