Is there a food more delightful, ubiquitous, or accessible than cheese? This book is a charming and engaging love letter to the food that Clifton Fadiman once called "milk’s leap toward immortality."
From Immortal Milk
It’s a challenge to describe the flavor of an excellent French cheese. Chuck and I were in our tiny rental in the Marais, hovering over a Langres. We didn’t have the funds for Champagne, but we had managed to get tipsy on a serviceable vin de pays.
“It doesn’t play well with others,” Chuck continued, the thick smack of pâte slowing her speech, “it doesn’t respect lesser cheese.”
“It’s like a road trip through Arizona in an old Buick,” I offered.
“It’s like Charlus, but early in Proust.”
“It has a half-life inside your teeth.”
“It has ideas.”
“It gradually peels off the skin on the roof of your mouth.”
“It attains absolute crustiness and absolute creaminess.”
Anyone can read that a salt-washed Langres is “salty,” then taste its saltiness, but not everyone will taste in it the brilliant and irascible character of Proust’s Baron Palamède de Charlus. Yet these more personal descriptions capture the experience of a Langres. It sparks associative leaps, unforeseen flashbacks, inspired flights of poetry and desire. Its riches reveal your own. W.H. Auden once remarked that when you read a book, the book also reads you. The same holds true for cheese: It tastes you.
Examining some cheeses we know as well as some we don’t, each chapter takes up a singular and exciting aspect of cheese: Why do we relish cheese? What facts does a cheese lover need to know? Who makes it and sells it at its best? How did cheese lead to cheesiness? What’s the ideal way to eat cheese—in Paris, Italy, and Wisconsin? Why does cheese comfort us, even when it reeks? Finally, what foods pair well with which cheeses?
Immortal Milk brings us cheese from as near the cheese shop around the corner to as far as the Slow Food International Cheese Festival in Bra, Italy. In the witty, inventive, and wise company of his best girl, Chuck, Eric LeMay endures surly fromagers in Paris and dodges pissing goats in Vermont, a hurricane in Cambridge, and a dispiriting sense of hippie optimism in San Francisco; looks into curd and up at the cosmos; and even climbs a snow-encrusted, lynx-trodden mountain, to discover the mysteries of cheese.