The Oxford Companion to Cheese

As a writer for this newsletter, I have to do research about different cheeses since I generally start out knowing little about the history of my subjects. And I LOVE doing this research. It brings me back to writing my thesis in college – the exciting hunt for a piece of information to complete the story or make an unexpected connection. You can probably tell by now that I am a major nerd who loved school and mostly asks for books for her birthday. One of my favorite cheese books is The Oxford Companion to Cheese edited by Catherine Donnelly, food safety professor at the University of Vermont. As of January 2018, this is the most comprehensive book on cheese, and my goodness it is a doorstop at 888 pages. But it is a very informative doorstop with hundreds of fascinating entries by cheese professionals from around the world.

The entries range from general, like brining, to specific, like mycelium, which is “the vegetative part of filamentous fungi consisting of interlaced and sometimes interconnected hyphae.” Wow, what is all that? I don’t even know but I’m excited to keep reading and find out! My favorite way to use this book is to open to a random page and read everything that’s on it. There is information for a whole range of cheese people – cheesemongers to cheesemakers to microbiologists to cheese lovers. It is very useful for this newsletter because I know the entries are carefully researched and written by someone who probably knows and loves the subject, suffusing it with passion as well as information. While this book is a little intimidating – there aren’t very many pictures (but the pictures it does have are killa!) – it is a helpful resource that exemplifies the diversity of the cheese world.
So why am I telling you about a book you probably won’t buy unless you’re a crazy cheese freak? First, if you’ve ever been curious about where I get information for the newsletters, now you know the source of my power. Second, it’s an important book for the cheese world. It shows that cheese is being taken seriously, not only as a delicious snack, but as an academic endeavor that connects people across different business sectors and around the world. If you want to take a look at our copy while you’re in the store, just ask!
For the love of cheese and books, books, BOOKS!