Book Review: The Whole Fromage by Kathe Lison

One may be confused by the title of Kathe Lison’s book, The Whole Fromage:  Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese.  It is not a comprehensive listing or description of French cheese.  It is not a thorough history of French cheese.  It is a feature story on the state of French cheesemaking.  The author is a lover of cheese and departs on a journey to understand how French cheese is made, touring different regions and methods.  What she discovers is that some French cheesemakers are incorporating modern methods of cheesemaking.  She doesn’t directly impart a bias against doing so, although I would say she probably doesn’t like it.  I enjoyed the short read, as I know little about French cheese; however, I am a lover of all things made the handmade way.  Indeed, she writes, “We all like to hear about the guy who wakes up at 4:00 a.m. every day to milk his cows by hand and then make cheese in a big wooden bucket.  There is something about the thought of all that labor–of a human bringing something into the world by sheer dint of muscle–that we value.”  It’s true…and leads to a question, does it really taste better when it’s made that way or is that a delusion?  I think it tastes better (if the person making it knows what they are doing!).

If you are a cheese lover, a French cheese lover, or someone who enjoys artisanal or indigenous foods, you will enjoy this book.  In addition to the above thoughts, I also found it surprising that people will pay over $400 for cheese made from moose milk.  And I could’ve lived without the image of the cannulated cow, although once I googled it, the image wasn’t quite as bad as what I pictured but still appalling enough to make me rethink cheese and dairy.

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