Synopses & Reviews
"While waiting for a flight at Paris' Charles De Gaulle Airport, essayist Kathe Lison picked up a book that would forever change her life or at least her palate. That book, a visual guide to more than 350 cheeses, inspired her on an immersive tour over 6,800 miles of France in the name of French cheese. Lison's own book is an account of this journey as she takes the reader from the very origin of cheese itself to the modern day, smartly focusing on trip highlights rather than a day-by-day approach which enables her to recount small stories the science of cheese addiction , the creation of Camembert, the drama behind Roquefort and its many pretenders in addition to broader themes such as the impact of terroir on cheese's flavor and the great raw-milk debate. Though she probably spends more time than necessary on Camembert, Lisbon seamlessly conveys the experience of tasting the creamy, luscious cheese and its many cousins. Part travelogue, part homage to fromage, Lisbon's book is informative and endearing and will appeal to foodies, Francophiles, and hungry readers. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
An Amazon 2013 Best of the Year Pick
The French, sans doute, love their fromages. And there’s much to love: hundreds of gloriously pungent varieties—crumbly, creamy, buttery, even shot through with bottle-green mold. So many varieties, in fact, that the aspiring gourmand may wonder: How does one make sense of it all?
In The Whole Fromage, Kathe Lison sets out to learn what makes French cheese so remarkable—why France is the “Cheese Mother Ship,” in the words of one American expert. Her journey takes her to cheese caves tucked within the craggy volcanic rock of Auvergne, to a centuries-old monastery in the French Alps, and to the farmlands that keep cheesemaking traditions alive. She meets the dairy scientists, shepherds, and affineurs who make up the world of modern French cheese, and whose lifestyles and philosophies are as varied and flavorful as the delicacies they produce. Most delicious of all, she meets the cheeses themselves—from spruce-wrapped Mont d’Or, so gooey it’s best eaten with a spoon; to luminous Beaufort, redolent of Alpine grasses and wildflowers, a single round of which can weigh as much as a Saint Bernard; to Camembert, invented in Normandy but beloved and imitated across the world.
With writing as piquant and rich as a well-aged Roquefort, as charming as a tender springtime chèvre, and yet as unsentimental as a stinky Maroilles, The Whole Fromage is a tasty exploration of one of the great culinary treasures of France.
Reading Group Guide
1. A lot of books have been written on the subject of French cheese, though none are quite like The Whole Fromage
. In what ways do you think this book treats the subject differently than it has been approached in the past? What effect did this have on your reading experience?
2. The book contains elements of personal narrative, but it’s really the history and culture of French cheese that form the “spine” of the story. What do you think might have led the author to structure the action that way? Did learning more about the history and culture cause you to think differently about French cheese?
3. Part of the history of French cheese is the battle between industrial and more artisan production. Lison suggests that industrial cheese doesn’t necessarily have to be all bad. What do you think of this idea? Should all cheese be artisan and locally produced? Or is there a place for factory-made cheese in a sustainable future?
4. Lison clearly did a tremendous amount of travel throughout France while researching the book. Were there any particular places or characters in the book that stood out for you? If you could be magically transported to one of the locales in the book, which one would it be?
5. Which of the cheeses discussed was your favorite? Why?