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Book Data

ISBN: 9781603582377
Year Added to Catalog: 2009
Book Format: Paperback
Dimensions: 6 x 9
Number of Pages: 256
Book Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Release Date: January 9, 2010
Web Product ID: 494

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Cheesemonger

A Life on the Wedge

by Gordon Edgar

Reviews

Cookbook cues: Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge by Gordon Edgar

Full disclosure: Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge (Chelsea Green, $17) isn't a cookbook at all, but I'm sneaking it in here anyway because of Wisconsin's fondness for cheese.

One of my UW-Madison college-mates, originally from New Jersey, claimed that she couldn't order anything in Wisconsin that didn't have cheese melted over it, to which my response would be something like, "Your point being?"

Suffice it to say that although we consume a lot of cheese in Wisconsin, we are not all-knowing or sometimes even very smart when it comes to cheese varieties, or what to do when faced with an upscale cheese counter. I learned a lot from reading Cheesemonger. If nothing else, you will definitely know what Taleggio is by the time you finish the book. (It's what Edgar calls a "gateway" cheese, "for people who want to learn to love the stink"; a.k.a. "The Italian Brie." And the pink color is supposed to be there.)

Author Gordon Edgar happens on a job at the Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco, the Bay's biggest natural food store. It's a position he wants more for the non-hierarchical working conditions at the co-op than out of a passion for cheese ("I grew up on Velveeta and Kraft singles," he writes, and "I will admit I fudged my interest in cheese when applying for my job"). But he learns on the job and ends up taking the co-op from a pedestrian selection of bulk cheeses to carrying an eclectic variety of artisan-made specialties as well as good, affordable cheeses.

Cheesemonger is a breezy read -- I read it in about a day -- yet its style is at times an uneasy marriage between a personal narrative and a cheese primer. While I enjoyed reading about Edgar's learning how to run the co-op's cheese counter, I did get tired of his frequent references to having been a punk-anarchist back in the 1980s. While he frequently implies there's a relationship between being an anarchist and becoming a cheesemonger at a co-op grocery, I didn't completely understand what the connection was supposed to be. Edgar brings a punk 'tude to the profession, which might be more noteworthy to readers who are less familiar than I am with shopping at grocery cooperatives.

But the best parts of the book are about Edgar's education in cheese, learning how to read what a customer wants, which kinds of cheese he can sell, and how to trust vendors and sales reps. As he becomes more learned in cheese, so does the reader.

And Edgar has great taste in cheese -- judging from the fact that some of his favorites are from right around these parts. In the extended cheese writeups that close each chapter, he shines the spotlight on Ocooch Mountain from Brenda Jensen's Hidden Springs Creamery, Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese, in Dodgeville, aged cheddar from Widmer's Cheese Cellars in Teresa, Grand Canaria from Carr Valley, and Dante from the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative.

The book also contains a couple of edifying sections about raw milk cheeses. The FDA recently decided against changing its regulations about aging periods for raw milk cheeses (60 days) but if the 60-day time frame and the "raw" question has ever perplexed you, read chapter five, "The Milk of Human Neurosis."

So, if you're a cheese lover, would-be cheese buyer, or just want to know more about cheese without having to contend with a lot of cheese snobbery, Edgar's your cheeseman.

Read the original review.

 


Cheesemonger: Life on the Wedge by Gordon Edgar
TheKitchn - Book Review 2011

 

I love the cheese department at my local worker-owned grocery store, Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco. It's well stocked with a wide variety of cheese, including everything from the fanciest of handmade goat's cheese to your basic block of orange cheddar. Many of the cheeses are accompanied by hand-lettered signs that offer helpful and often humorous information, and they always have an interesting choice on their sample table.

So when I saw that ex-punk/anarchist (well, not so sure about the ex part) Gordon Edgar had a memoir out about his experiences as the cheesemonger for Rainbow, I knew it would be, if anything, an interesting read. Turns out it's that and so much more. Read on for my review.

First, while this book is firmly based in San Francisco in many ways, I want to state that it is not just for citizens and fans of SF, nor is it only for those who shop at Rainbow, or have decidedly left of center politics. It's not just for punk rockers or anarchists or people in the cheese making business either. While this book's terroir (inside joke directed towards the author) is pure SF, it's is not exclusively SF and I hope that anyone who is interested in cheese, food politics, farming, working in retail or hearing a good story will pick this up. It will not disappoint.

It is also important to note that this is not a cheese primer, although I learned quite a lot about cheese and how to select cheese from this book and more than anything, that's my biggest takeaway here. Mr. Edgar offers wise advice to first understand where your tastes are and then know where you want to go. Do you like a simple, not too challenging brie and are ready to take it up a notch? Or are you a lover of a good stinky washed-rind cheese but have to bring something with less funk to the office party? Maybe you're on a first date or want to impress a client. Either way, throughout the book Mr. Edgar gives great advice on how to navigate a cheese counter and discover an enormous world of tastes, smells and textures. He ends each chapter with two cheese recommendations, including a few less pricier alternates.

Not unexpectedly, Mr. Edgar doesn't shy away from the complexity of being a pretty radical political guy selling fancy cheeses in a worker-owned co-operative that's located in a working class/homeless encampment-surrounded neighborhood which in turn is located in a liberal city that's experiencing a huge real estate boom. Through this memoir, we not only begin to know its author, we also begin to understand what a 40 pound block of commodity cheddar is and why it exists. We catch a glimpse into the immense challenges of a small dairy in American in the beginning of the 21st century and why there's so much fuss about raw milk cheese. Or how a cheese buyer learns to maneuver the clutches of ambitious sales reps and crazy (or just very high-maintenance) customers.

Despite his tough, anarchist/punk exterior, Mr. Edgar is very sensitive to the subtleties and complexities and interdependencies of his trade, and he handles them very well, with a surprising amount of patience and humor, all the while remaining loyal to his basic political beliefs. There are many good stories here that are not just about selling cheese or being on the fringe of modern American society. It is clear that while Mr. Edgar accidentally stumbled into his role as cheesemonger fifteen years ago, he is today a passionate and unpretentious advocate for the ripe, tangy, creamy, funky way of life. He repeatedly says throughout this book that he has the best job in the world. In the end, this is a love story and a good one at that.

Read the original review.

 


Rainbow worker's book a good read about cheese

 

San Francisco Examiner - November 19, 2010

By: Patricia Unterman

SAN FRANCISCO — Rainbow Grocery, the worker-owned, natural foods supermarket, currently has the best cheese department in San Francisco, taking into consideration range, price and quality. I hold Gordon Edgar, who has worked the cheese counter for 15 years, accountable for this triumph. In his paperback tell-all “Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge” (Chelsea Green, $17.95), he describes his transformation from politically active punk who fell into the job, to bonafide cheesemonger with a cultivated palate and an understanding of the crucial relationship between quality and retail handling.

Far from being a cheese manual, “Cheesemonger” is a fast and entertaining read, and along the way you learn everything you need to know, which includes a select list of Edgar’s favorites.

You can actually taste them — a couple at a time — at Rainbow and say hello. He’s prickly, but a real no-bull expert on a product about which there is plenty. Both the counter and the book are refreshingly honest.

Read the original review on SFExaminer.com.


Ale Street Online

FEAR OF THE FUNKY: a Conversation with Cheesemonger Author Gordon Edgar About Raw Milk Cheese, Beer.

Written by Lucy Saunders   

Thursday, 11 November 2010
Gordon Edgar knows funky, from raw milk cheeses to the primal smell of punk rockers packed into a concert hall.

As a youthful punk political activist, Edgar bluffed his way into his cheese job knowing almost nothing, but quickly discovered a whole world of amazing artisan cheeses.

Edgar is not your usual CHEESEMONGER, selling haute attitudes along with tips on terroir. Instead, he’s a smart and unpretentious advocate for ethical foods, from his post as cheese buyer for the Rainbow Grocery cooperative in San Francisco. He says he talked his way into his job by saying his favorite cheese was “anything raw and rennetless.”

We first met in Milwaukee in 2004, collaborating with Sonoma cheesemaker Sheana Davis, on a rambunctious craft beer and cheese tasting held during the American Cheese Society (ACS) annual conference. Edgar still prefers beer and cheese pairings, “being more of a beer drinker personally,” he says, “I really like getting the message out there that you don’t have to choose wine first, that beer and cheese is the traditional choice in many cheese-making countries, such as Belgium, Ireland and England.”

“I love an aged Cheddar such as the Cabot clothbound Cheddar, and served with Lagunitas Farmhouse Ale,” Edgar says. “Blue cheeses and hoppy beer go together really well, I really love the IPAs that bring out the buttery sweet notes of blues.”

Our conversation about cheese quickly veered to the general American fear of the raw, as in raw milk cheeses. Edgar began with a preface to highlight the dilemma about funky taste, “I just got back from judging at the ACS in Seattle and as a cheese buyer, you’re the esthetic judge, so, you’re always paired up with someone who is a technical judge from a dairy science background. There’s always some point where the technical judge is grading down for defects in a cheese, and meanwhile the esthetic judge is grading the same cheese a high mark for unique attributes.”

What tastes raw and funky may be unfamiliar to most of us. “There’s a lot of people who want the unique flavors possible in raw milk cheeses,” says Edgar, “but from a food science viewpoint, why wouldn’t you want to eliminate risk and make things safer? But from the viewpoint of wanting to get the most flavor and embrace tradition in cheesemaking, there’s a huge difference in raw milk cheese flavors — with factory food production, raw milk is too risky. With small cheesemakers, people who are really expert can minimize those risks and create something more innovative and delicious.”

Edgar hopes that the future won’t bring a return to “Reagan cheese,” those gigantic blocks of mass-produced, flavorless and rubbery cheese. “I hope to see lots of small production cheeses, because it’s next to impossible to make a living selling fluid milk,” he explains, “as a dairy farmer, you have to make a yogurt, cheese, butter, or ice cream — something that will add value and let you cover your dairy farm expenses.”

The trend is toward a great variety of small scale production and farmstead cheeses to let people keep their farms, “and perhaps more farmers will start defining grass fed cheeses, cheeses made according to the grazing patterns and seasonal plants found in the pasture.” In Wisconsin, Organic Valley is making a sublime “Pasture Butter,” produced only from milk from pasture-grazed cows, and Bob Wills, of the Cedar Grove Cheese Co. (see conserve-greatlakes.com for photos of his Living Machine), make a wonderful real mozzarella di bufala from a small herd of water buffalo kept by a nearby farmer.

And just like in craft brewing, Edgar foresees more consolidation among cheese producers, because “artisan cheese is about 10 years behind the waves of craft beer — bigger companies will want to take over the artisan dairies where there’s no next generation of family in place to carry on the business.”
Will craft beer ever be used in the actual making of cheese, beyond cheese dips and spreads? Edgar says, “I think there will be more cheese makers experimenting with rind washes made with beer; for example, the Jasper Hill Winnimere gets its reddish rind from being washed with a raspberry lambic made with their own yeasts — which brought up the fruity flavors. It’s one of my favorite cheeses and I think it will inspire more cheese makers.”

Shaun Hill, is the creator of this year’s Winnimere rind wash. A near relative of the farm’s namesake, Jasper Hill, Shaun opened the Hill Farmstead Brewery on his family’s old farm — the culmination of more than a decade spent brewing in Vermont and most recently in Denmark as head brewer at both Nørrebro Bryghus and the re-launched Fanø Bryghus. The Hill Farmstead Brewery marks another step forward in the quest to preserve Vermont’s working landscape.

CHEESEMONGER is a fantastic read, and remember it’s a memoir more than a guide book. This is not a book about cheese styles. If you want to think about the current politics of agriculture, cheese production, retail culture, and how work can be an apprenticeship into learning something more than just slicing and wrapping, then this book will inspire you (and make you laugh out loud more than once).

Read the original review here...

 


Books, Boys, Buzz...(Young Adult Writer's Blog)

 

September 23rd, 2010

What I'm Eating (I Mean Reading)...

It's funny, but sometimes, especially when I'm in the thick of writing one of my stories, it's very refreshing to read some non-fiction, or at least something totally unrelated to the story I'm crafting.

Cue Cheesemonger by Gordon Edgar.

My boss gave me this book to borrow, because, he said, "You're the resident foodie." I started to read a little bit every day on my lunch break and found myself hooked into the story of how a punk rock kid living in the Bay Area found work at a cheese counter and in doing so, a whole new life as a cheesemonger.

Punk rock and cheese? I know, right? They don't seem related, but Gordon brings the two together, talking about culture and agitation and individuality. He also makes some great points about small producer cheese versus factory cheese - about valuing the artisan's work and nourishing your palate in the process. About the need for food and farm workers to have a healthy, safe life. About how people should be adventurous and step away from commercially produced cheddar, jack, and swiss cheeses every once in a while.

Do you guys this this is totally crazy of me to read a book about cheese? Well, I love to cook, I love to eat, and I love to read - so it's kind of a good fit for me. And actually, it's a pretty great read. I savored it, cover to cover. (And -- here's a shocker -- it made me hungry for cheese!)

So, what's the most off-beat non-fiction book you've read?

Hugs,

Heather
www.heatherdavisbooks.com
Never Cry Werewolf - HarperTeen
The Clearing - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Wherever You Go - Harcourt - Fall 2011

Read the original article here.


Newsreview.com
C. Moore
August 12, 2010

Gordon Edgar is a punker-turned-cheesemonger (a “cheese punk,” as he puts it) for Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco (the largest worker-owned cooperative in the country), and his unpretentious and informed cheese memoir/commentary is something even experienced turophiles can learn from. He says in the preface: “There are plenty of great cheese guidebooks out there. This is not one of them.” Despite the disclaimer, after rapidly devouring this delicious read, I feel I know more about cheese than I could learn from an entire class on cheesemaking. Highly entertaining and engaging, Edgar’s vignettes about his increasing forays into the cheese world alternating with never-condescending and always-enlightening cheese knowledge makes this book really hard to put down. Just like a delightfully complex cheese, Edgar is sweet and a little nutty, but with a piquant streak that awakens something inside—even if it’s just the desire to grab a hunk of aged Gruyere from the fridge to accompany the next chapter. (And, local foodies will appreciate his mention of Tim Pedrozo and Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Co. of Orland. )

 

Read the whole article here.


Sacramento Book Review
Review
July 26, 2010

As part of the San Francisco scene with trips to Marin and Sonoma Counties, punk cheese monger Gordon Edgar delights the reader with his account of how he fell into the cheese business and became consumed with a passion for cheeses and all the processes that are involved in its production. As the buyer/seller/distributor of cheese for the San Francisco-based Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, the author serendipitously learned his trade while on the job. He writes engagingly of his interactions with producers, sellers, cheese snobs and his education of how the flavors of cheeses are produced by the management of cattle, goats and their diets. He has no patience for the effete personalities in the field, and pretentiousness is not part of his diet. His book reflects on how he fell in love with cheeses and learned to discern quality products, and on his overview of the agricultural aspects affecting the milk base and problems posed by current practices. He is a free spirit, and vividly details his joy of working in a management-free environment. You can listen to all his opinions with a nod and a smile, while seriously following his suggestions for the specific cheeses that he so warmly describes and recommends. Learn about cheese from a beginner who transformed himself into a connoisseur, a gourmet for the common foodie, who fortunately is more inviting than the elite wine aficionados.


Visit the website here.


Read-Only Mode
Review
July 25, 2010

A dreamy exploration of the magical food we call cheese. Perhaps it is the Dane in me, but I have always said "I have never met a cheese I didn't like." However, this book opened up the vast, wild terrain that is cheese. It has posed a delightful challenge to an already self-proclaimed cheese lover, to take it to the next level. And I am ready and up for the challenge.

Fortunately, this was not a snobby, "I know so much" foodie book. It wasn't the kind of specialty food book that leaves you at the train station while the author and all the expensive cheese in the world roars by you fast as a speeding bullet. His face laughing at you as he passes, gorging himself on hundred dollar cheese wedges.

No this is a raw, honest, creative and community minded thoughtful book about cheese. He explores his own story of becoming a Cheesemonger right here in San Francisco's wonderful employee-owned co-op called Rainbow Grocery. His story of how punk rock informed his rise in the cheese community. In each chapter, some description of cheese would make my mouth water.

What I loved about the book was his unabashed explanation of the how, why, who of cheese making. Which brings you to the unsexy underbelly of cheese: mold, bacteria, animal husbandry, local farming (beyond the myth to the reality) and the natural smelly beasts that are behind cheese. I loved this story.

I was personally challenged to just explore and try cheeses. Find a place where the cheesemonger will work with you and let you try a few things before breaking the bank on a wedge of tasty goodness. If I say right now that one of my favorite cheeses is Jarlsberg, I have a long way to go and a lot to explore. But with Gordon as my cheesemonger I feel confident and excited about all the future cheese which will replace that love of Jarlsberg.

When I say that, its not that it is a snobby thing it is really about the quality of production. If I love a processed cheese like that now,  how much more will I love the real thing! I am including an extensive list of cheese to try for my own record, bear with the indulgence.

If you do try some of these remember that cheese is seasonal so you may have to wait for them.

Black Butte Reserve, Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Company - Essentially a real aged Gouda.

Maple Smoked Gouda, Taylor Farms "Look, most smoked Gouda is crap. Those round, sausagey logs you see all over the place? Those are the processed remains of Goudas that didn't work out for whatever reason. They give smoked cheese a bad name." Pg 43

Hillis Peak, Pholia Farm - Any cheese from this farm is recommended. Pg 59

Ocooch Mountain, Hidden Springs Creamery: "This is one of my favorite cheeses and very few people have heard of it. Ocooch Mountain is a washed-rind, raw milk sheep cheese from Wisconsin. Aged on wooden boards . . .it is nutty, smooth and - if aged long enough - a tad pungent." Pg 60

Hopeful Tomme, Sweet Grass Dairy (grassy and floral, shows off the pasture) Pg 78

Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Uplands Cheese Company - From their website: "producing food slowly, deliberately, ad with pride is a value worth preserving in our hurried, industrialized society." pg 79

Golden Bear Dry Jack, Vella Cheese Company -  Pg 92

Reblochon (can't get this here!)

Serra da Estrela from the Iberian Penninsula (a great cheese gift for someone who has tried all different cheese he says) Pg 102

Blue Stilton, Coston Bassett "Equally classic English cheese as cheddar." Pg 102

Explorateur

Sainte-Maure de Touranie

Rogue River Blue, Rogue Creamery "Absolutely my favorite American blue cheese" Pg 135

Roquefort "France's first name-controlled cheese; that is, in such a cheese centric culture as France, it was recognized that the name ROquefort was so special that it had to be protected from imitators." Pg 136 Similar cheeses: Ewe's Blue (US), Blue des Basques (France) Best producers of Roquefort: Coulet, Berger, Carles, Papillon (Pg 136)

Montgomery Cheddar (Similar cheese - Keen's Cheddar (UK), Lincolnshire Poacher (UK), Fiscalini Bandage Wrapped Cheddar (US), Flagship Reserve (US), Cabot Clothbound Cheddar made at Jasper Hill Farm (US). Pg 146

Aged Chddar, Widmer's Cheese Cellars (Similar cheese, Grafton Cabbot and Bravo Farms). Pg 146

Franklin's Teleme, Similar to Teleme

Bonne Bouche, Vermont Butter and Cheese Company

Humbolt Fog, Cypress Grove Chevre

Comte (Gruyere de Comte, dimilar to Gruyere)Great cooking cheese! Pg 174

Red Hawk, Cowgirl Creamery

Gran Canaria, Carr Valley Cheese Company

Minuet, Andante Dairly

Monet, Harley Farms (pg 198)

Dante, Wisconsin Sheep Dairly Cooperative

Winnimere, Jasper Hill

Read the whole article here.


 Ad quattuor cardines mundi

Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge
By Thad
9 June 2010

So, a book about a life with cheese … well, not exactly.  This is an autobiography about a cheesemonger, Gordon Edgar, that never set out to become a food professional.  Instead, he was a punk and fixture in the 80’s San Francisco counter-culture that, on a fluke, got a job at the Rainbow Co-op.  From this slightly random move from a job cleaning buses used by hippies to working at the Rainbow’s cheese section, Gordon explains how his life as a punk and his extracurriculars at university helped to shape his career as the Cheese Man.

Read the whole article here.


Tasty Bits Blog: Real Foodies

When Punk Rock and Cheese Collide
By realfoodies
June 9, 2010

Rarely do I read a book that cracks me up and enlightens me at the same time. Gordon Edgar is not perfect, but brilliant. I love cheese, but even if I didn’t I would want to eat cheese after reading this book. Not only does he demystify cheese, but he educates about how cheese is made and the state of dairy farming in the US. I can’t wait to read it again. Cheese is a great example of the importance of understanding where our food comes from. When I pick up a cheese at the store now, I wonder what were the cows/goats/sheep eating? When was is cut and packed? Where is the farm located? I used to just wonder, is it stinky, creamy/hard and expensive? Occasionally, I will just wonder how good it will be in 20 minutes when I hack into it at home. I am human.

Read this book. Read this book. Read this book.

Read the whole article here.


7 x 7

Best of San Francisco 2010: Eat + Drink
By Sara Deseran
May 20, 2010 3:51PM

Most Refreshing Read

In a sea of sugary, overly rich cookbook-cum-memoirs, Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge (Chelsea Green Publishing), written by Rainbow Grocery cheese buyer Gordon Edgar, provides a deliciously bracing palate cleanser. The reformed punk writes an often-hilarious story of his romp through the cheese department of one of the country’s biggest co-ops and the amazing cheeses that he encounters. From it, we learn the ins and outs of cheese for sure, but even more about Edgar as a person. And from all accounts, he’s a very likable instructor.

Read the whole article here.


The Washington Post

Say Cheese: Between the Covers
By Domenica Marchetti
May 18, 2010

Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge, by Gordon Edgar (Chelsea Green, 2010; $17.95)
At times it’s hard to tell whether Edgar is more proud of the career he has successfully crafted as a cheese retailer in spite of (initially) not knowing much about the subject, or his background in anarchist politics. He ties the two worlds together cleverly (if somewhat absurdly), comparing customers to the various properties of milk or cheese, and his own work as an “agent of change” to the role that rennet plays in transforming milk into cheese. There are thoughtful musings on the name origins of cheese and the controversy surrounding raw milk cheeses. The book’s most appealing feature is Edgar’s own voice, which is often funny and always devoid of pretension. The voyeur in me especially enjoyed the day-in-the-life anecdotes of his dealings with untrustworthy reps and insufferable customers in his job as the cheese buyer for Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, in San Francisco. Although this is not a guidebook, a section at the end does provide useful tips on cheese buying for beginners. Primarily, though, it’s an engaging account of one man’s foray into the wild world of cheese, retail.

Read the whole article here.


Tablehopper

The Bookworm
Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge

by Pete Mulvihill

In this month’s Bookworm, let’s take a look at local culture, of sorts. Gordon Edgar, the cheese guy at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, has written a memoir entitled Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge (published by Vermont’s Chelsea Green Publishing). And there the puns will end, I promise.

The book starts as straight memoir: how Gordon got his job at Rainbow, how he learned his trade, and so on. Through his story, you quickly get a sense of who he is—there’s some punk in Gordon, certainly, and the requisite lefty NorCal politics.

Read the whole article here.


TreeHugger

The Anarchy of Cheese Made Simple
by Christine Lepisto, Berlin on 04.25.10

Cheesemonger inspires one to become an expert on cheese -- or on anything for that matter -- with the realization that this goal is achievable with a good dose of humility, curiosity and hard work. And if you already fancy yourself a cheese expert, such as the American who did a two year post-doc at the Sorbonne, this book may prevent you from making an overconfident ass of yourself. Best of all, this book celebrates both old and new world cheeses, proving that cheesemaking continues to perpetuate a local tradition in which the consumer can revel in the taste of the "grass roots."

The Cheesemonger is Edgar Gordon. Gordon makes it clear in no uncertain terms that he started with zero cheese knowledge, leveraging a history as a punk-rock political activist to bluff his way into a job at the cheese counter of a worker-owned coop. He sets about earning the qualifications to call himself a "cheesemonger." We won't give away Gordon's definition here; you'll have to read the book to get a good chuckle at that. Along the way, he conquers both the anarchy of life in the coop and the confusing disorder of wonderfully diverse products that we lump unter the term cheese.

Read the whole article here.


Sara Ryan

You really need to read Cheesemonger: a life on the wedge.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I’ve been wanting to write about Cheesemonger by Gordon Edgar since I finished reading it, shortly after Gordon’s event at the ever-awesome Reading Frenzy.

First off, read Cheesemonger if you like:

Punk.

Worker-owned cooperatives.

Cheese. (Duh.)

I am a fan of all three, and also of Gordon, so I was expecting to really enjoy this book, and I did.

I didn’t expect to find passages that would resonate especially strongly for folks who work in public libraries, but guess what? They’re there.

Read the whole article here.


Chow

The Funniest Man in Cheese
Posted on Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 by Lessley Anderson in Food Media

A memoir of a guy who sells cheese at a cooperative grocery store doesn’t seem like it would be a total page turner, but Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge by Gordon Edgar most certainly is. Edgar, aka “Gordonzola,” is the cheese buyer at San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery, the largest worker-owned retail store in the country, and an amazing melting pot of everyone from dread locked trance dancers to blue tooth-wearin’ dot-commers stocking up on sustainably-sourced quinoa. With a dry wit that often had me laughing out loud on public transportation, Edgar tells the at times paradoxical story of growing up punk in the Reagan era, then turning to a career in fancy cheese. CHOW.com sat down with Edgar to follow up.

Book reviews of Cheesemonger seem to be pounding your “former punk rocker” image pretty hard. Is that getting annoying?

Yeah. The further it got away from the original Chelsea Green Publishing press release, the more absurd it became. I still go to [punk rock] shows, I’m just more discriminating about the ones I go to.

How have things changed in cheese since you started at Rainbow in the mid 90s?

We’re in the midst of an explosion of high-quality U.S. cheese. When I started, the new cheeses for people were Saint-André and Jarlsberg. Now people are looking for stronger cheeses, cheeses with interesting stories, more U.S.-made cheeses.

 

Read the whole article here.


Fair Food Fight!

Book Review: Say Cheesemonger!
by: El Dragón
Wed, 04/07/2010 - 21:05

It must be tough writing a book about good food. Because you can't give readers a literal taste of what you're talking about, all you can do is try and convince people that you have a superfine palate and keep using words like "delicious" and "yummy" over and over.

This is why the book CHEESEMONGER: A LIFE ON THE WEDGE by Gordon Edgar (Chelsea Green; 2010) is a cut above most books about food. Not merely a cheese brochure with "flavor profiles" of various cheeses (though it does offer great info about various cheeses at the end of each chapter), CHEESEMONGER is like having beer with a smart friend who knows cheese so well that you want to keep buying drinks to hear everything he knows. 

Gordon Edgar is the eponymous "cheesemonger," the head buyer and seller of cheese at San Francisco's famous Rainbow Co-op grocery store. If you know this worker-owned co-op, you won't be surprised that the author brings a classic punk ethic to the topic and that CHEESEMONGER houses no sacred cows. From the book's first chapter, Edgar unapologetically slaps cheese out of the hands of bloodless aesthetes who are more concerned with status and prestige of cheese, with a description of his annual nightmare about coolers full of rotten, moldy cheese in the midst of a busy holiday at the store. "All the beautiful cheese is going concave -- hardening and disintegrating -- and I am helpless." No, food porn this is not.

Read the whole article here.


The Farm Stay USA Project

Book Review -- Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Posted by Michelle Nowak at 7:32 AM

Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge is a memoir by Gordon "Zola" Edgar, who buys and sells cheese for the Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco.

Cheesemonger traces Edgar's accidental road into the world of cheese, explaining that he stumbled upon his job circuitously, after growing up on punk politics and less than gourmet Velveeta and Kraft singles. After working at Rainbow for a while and sampling cheese after cheese but loving none of them, Edgar’s life changed for good when he tasted an Antique Gruyere. That Gruyere was his gateway cheese.

Read the whole article here.


Next Magazine

Gordon Edgar Is the Big Cheese
Peter Sherwood

Big Cheese Gordon Edgar has served as resident cheesemonger at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco for over 15 years. He’s judged at cheese competitions, sat as board member for the California Artisan Cheese Guild, and has been aging a cheesey blog (Gordonzola.net) to ripeness since 2002. Formerly involved in punk rock and politics, Edgar finagled an entry into the world of artisan cheeses armed with only a few piercings and propaganda posters. Having insinuated himself thusly at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative, he soon developed a profound knowledge of and respect for the art of cheese.

Read the whole article here.


The Morning News

Big Cheese
Robert Birnbaum, Mar. 30, 2010

OK, I admit that I am blind to the allure of books about food, chefs, or most of what seems to excite the foodie partisans of the reading world. I did enjoy Amanda Hesser’s romance memoir and Barbara Haber’s social history, From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals. Now comes Gordon Edgar’s memoir Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge (Chelsea Green), and it is both great fun and, uh, informative.

Apparently Gordon Edgar is a big, uh, deal—OK, I won’t say it—in the cheese world, having made his reputation at San Francisco’s worker-owned Rainbow Grocery Cooperative. And his progressive politics and man-of-the-people activism allows for a singular view of “America’s growing cheese movement” (whatever that is).

Read the whole article here.


San Francisco Bay Guardian Online

The cheeseman can
Caitlin Donohue
03.26.10 - 1:02 pm

The subtitle of Rainbow Grocery cheesemonger Gordon “Zola” Edgar’s new memoir (supertitled Cheesemonger, appropriately enough) would be enough for me to count the book a success; “Life on the wedge.” Ha! See, right there, he had me ready to head out to his Omnivore Books reading (Sat/3) fangirl style, washed rind Taleggio in hand, hounding for an autograph. Luckily, the rest of his book is pretty good too. 

Where Cheesemonger triumphs is its accessibility. Edgar covers a lot of ground within its pages -- Bay area agricultural/urban history, the ins and outs and importance of worker collectives, food justice, and of course, the art and science that is cheese. But it is all tied together with that rare liberal ethos that is both positive, and commonsensical. 

Read the whole article here.


Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill!

I am in a book about cheese
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gordon’s book Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge finally hit the shelves a few weeks back, and I was antsy to get my hands on it. Of course, anyone who knew me might think that, beyond the fact of its mentioning ME, I would find little of interest in the book. And it’s true, I am anything but a “foodie”; I don’t even really eat cheese all that often. But I am a nerd, and as such harbor a deep appreciation for, and identification with, the consuming enthusiasms of others. I may not know cheese, but I do know the joy that comes from immersion in a subject about which one is passionate, as well as the thrill of sharing that passion with others. It’s for this reason that I can find delight in the way my wife’s face lights up when she describes a particularly exciting cheese she’s sampled, or be fascinated by Keith’s writings about fine single malts, despite my being perfectly happy to curl up with a bottle of Famous Grouse.

And cheese, with the intricacies of its production, and the wide variety of factors, large and small, that come into play in giving each type its distinctive qualities -- in other words, those things that provide each cheese with its own individual “story” -- can make for especially fascinating subject matter in this regard. Gordon’s blog postings had already demonstrated to me that he was a witty and engaging writer, but, as Cheesemonger makes clear, he’s also a very generous one. The man is simply a natural communicator. Add to this a principled lack of pretension -- Gordon’s punk roots have lead to him being much more of a gatecrasher than a gatekeeper -- and you’ve got a rare example of food lit that is at once surprisingly accessible and completely entertaining, regardless of what you bring to the table (um, so to speak).

Read the whole article here.


San Francisco Chronicle

Rainbow cheese buyer tells all
Jon Bonné
Sunday, March 21, 2010

If there's a dose of Bourdain here, Edgar more substantively questions the often too-high prices of cheese; details the work of local cheesemakers; and deftly telegraphs how punk aethetics perfectly mesh with a foodstuff that's seen as the ultimate yuppie indulgence.

Read the whole article here.


Publishers Weekly

Beginning with the Antique Gruyere that awoke his sleeping palate to the wonders and possibilities of cheese, professional cheesemonger Edgar recounts the path that landed him behind the cheese counter of a San Francisco co-op. Armed with a healthy disdain for pretentiousness and a liberal attitude rooted in punk rock and activism, Edgar provides engaging, illuminating essays on the intricacies of cheese and its production-from milk to the use of hormones to methods of farming-as well as profiles of well-known varieties; he even makes room for oft-maligned American Cheese (Edgar himself was raised on Velveeta and Kraft Singles), as well as entertaining digressions on crazy customers. Unfortunately, Edgar's asides can irritate as often as they inform, repeating his thoughts on issues like the logistics of food cooperatives and challenges facing the nation's milk producers. Edgar's passion for the subject, including its politics and social implications, is unassailable, and should give readers a new perspective on their favorite wedge of fromage. The book works best as a bulletin from the front lines, rather than a guide to distinguishing Cashel from Maytag Blue; it should prove most interesting to locavores, fellow cheesemongers, and those interested in the U.S. food industry. (Mar.)


Booklist

*Starred Review*
February 15, 2010

Gordon (Zola) Edgar recounts his life in cheese, which began when he took a job at the cheese counter of the famed Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco, knowing little beyond the Monterey Jack he grew up eating. His punk-rock aesthetic and political activism meshed beautifully with the worker-run natural foods store, but it wasn’t until a revelatory encounter with an Antique Gruyère that a true passion was kindled. He claims that this is a memoir, not a guidebook, but you couldn’t really ask for a more personable guide and introduction to the world of cheese, especially for those turned off by the lah-de-dahing often associated with it. He has a tendency to talk in circles, wandering from topic to topic and back around again, but it’s almost always enlightening and entertaining. He’ll get into aging cheese, then mirror it with his own maturation, or slice into the political aspects of making cheese (of which there are many), then segue into his own unique role in the community, or counterbalance techie talk of rennet and growth hormones with personal anecdotes of persnickety customers and earthy cheese makers. What really sets him apart, though, is his absolute disdain for pretension. He recognizes that a cheese obsession is inevitably foodie-ish, but that doesn’t mean it has to be tied up in snobbery and fetishization of trendy buzzwords (his picking apart of artisinal and terroir are especially delicious). Each chapter ends with a couple of cheese recommendations for us poor souls not lucky enough to have a Gordon Zola in our own neighborhoods.
Ian Chipman


The Dinner Files

Spring Reading
Posted by Molly Watson on Friday, March 12th, 2010, at 8:50 am, and filed under books.

 

Two friends and an acquaintance (well, I know him and he might recognize me but maybe not) have come out with books this spring. It was with great relief that I opened them up and found them to my liking. There is always that moment before reading a friend’s book or going to their gallery show or hearing their band when I hold my breath and hope the deepest hope that I’ll like what I read/see/hear.

Food books first. Gordon Edgar’s Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge recounts his travails running the cheese counter at Rainbow Grocery here in San Francisco. I’ve been shopping at Rainbow, a worker-owned vegetarian co-op in my neighborhood, for years. Since it’s a co-op, the workers tend to stay around. The nice guy who always helped me deal with bagging and getting stuff to my car when my son was a tiny baby in a sling is still there, working the service counter, directing cars, and, I’m sure, helping other overwhelmed new moms. The cheese counter Gordon (a.k.a. Gordonzola) oversees is the reason that I desperately wish against all hope that someday Rainbow will stop its vegetarian ways and start selling meat. I wish this primarily for my own convenience, but also because, if the cheese counter is any indication, the meat counter would be amazing. I’ve watched the cheese section at Rainbow grow and develop over the years into the shining beacon of deliciousness and overcrowded convenience behind the produce area. There is a lot of cheese in not much space back there, but the grab-and-go pre-cut pieces and stellar variety combine to trump, in my opinion, the fanciest cheese spots around. Sometimes I want to sit and taste cheese and talk about the cheese before I buy, but not usually. Usually I’m doing the grocery shopping and need some Italian fontina, a hunk of Parmesan, a soft blue, and maybe something else but I’ll figure that out myself, thank you very much. Reading Gordon’s account of learning about cheese, developing the cheese section at Rainbow, and how this all fits into his essential punk philosophy and radical politics reminded me about everything I love about that store. It reminded me that the insane parking and long lines are worth it.

Read the whole article here.


SFWeekly.com

Memoir by Rainbow Cheesemonger Smashes Foodie Stereotypes
By John Birdsall, SFoodie Editor in Books
Mon., Mar. 1 2010 @ 2:05PM

Is it possible to turn gastronome without surrendering your punk soul? That question bleeds through the text of Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge by Rainbow cheese buyer Gordon Edgar. The 200-page memoir ($17.95, Chelsea Green) traces Edgar's transformation from '80s punk misfit to foodie of sorts, a guy who's developed a love of Gruyère and chèvres while keeping his socially and politically progressive edge, the way the smell of Vacherin clings to your fingers.

It's a book that delivers the kind of rigorously inside information that so often reads as pedantry. But Edgar wears his carefully cultivated "cheesemonger" label with obvious pride: Not merely a cheese expert or lover, he never forgets he's a clerk in a grocery store, albeit a cooperative with an only-in-San-Francisco core of chip-on-its-shoulder social conscience.

Read the whole article here.


StarTribune.com

Cheeses! You won't believe this culinary journey
By SUSAN AGER, Special to the Star Tribune

But if you love cheese, and don't take it or yourself too seriously, you'll love Edgar's small but sincere story of how he came to sell it, what he's learned about it, what he's witnessed at farms where it's made, how cheese reps shamelessly market their goods to folks like him, how he seriously wounded himself on a cheese toothpick and more, much more.

Most fun for me were his punkish, puckish descriptions of some of the best cheeses that cows, sheep, goats and humans have ever, working together, produced.

Of Explorateur, a French triple-cream Brie, he writes: "Rich, creamy, mushroomy, buttery, with the texture of silk, this is the perfect cheese to get you laid." Of Winnemere, from Jasper Hill in Vermont, which he calls his favorite American cheese: It's "like eating your way through a bacon forest in autumn."

Did this guy do too much drugs in his youth?

Read the whole article here.


Examiner.com

Rainbow Grocery's Gordon Edgar delivers with Cheesemonger
February 24, 10:22 • PMSF Sustainable Food Examiner • Jeri Lynn Chandler

Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge by Rainbow Grocery's cheesemonger Gordon Edgar was officially unleashed on the world this past weekend at the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference. What a gift. If you ever doubted that the personal was political or that it was possible to be irreverent and take food seriously at the same time, you must check out Edgar's take on cheese and work and life and everything in Cheesemonger

Read the whole article here.


Bite Club Eats

Required Reading
By BiteClubEats on February 18, 2010 11:28 AM

 

As guy behind the cheese counter at San Francisco's much-loved Rainbow Grocery, Gordon Edgar gets that cheese can be kind of funny. And smelly. And maybe even a little weird sometimes, but ultimately one of the most profound foods we can eat.

The former punk rocker turned Cheesemonger writes a self-deprecating, humorous and most-importantly, passionate love-letter to le fromage that's as much personal journey as guide.

Read the whole article here.


Citrus Quark

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Book Recommendation: Cheesemonger by Gordon Edgar

One of the reasons traveling by plane is so great is that you get to catch up on all the reading you’ve been meaning to do. For me, that usually means books about restaurants, food, and wine. On my recent trip to Louisiana to visit family, I brought along a book that I discovered on Jeanne Carpenter's Cheese Underground. The book is called Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge by Gordon Edgar, which chronicles the life of Edgar as it pertains to his personal experiences with cheese and cheese-makers.

I admire Edgar because he started with basically no cheese knowledge, fudging his way through his initial interview. He was a punk rocker in his youth going from job to job when the opportunity arose at Rainbow where he eventually rose to the position of buyer. He managed to get out a few buzz words that made the folks hiring him think that he knew a little something about cheese like “rennet” and “raw.” The rest is history.

It’s fun to read about how his passion for cheese began from his first experience tasting an aged Gruyere, which also happens to be one of my favorite cheeses. In fact, I identified with Edgar on a lot of levels while I was reading this book. He makes his passion for cheese obvious from his descriptions of them nearly make your mouth water.

Read the whole article here.

 


 

Booklist - Starred Review!

March 2010

By Ian Chipman

Gordon (Zola) Edgar recounts his life in cheese, which began when he took a job at the cheese counter of the famed Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco, knowing little beyond the Monterey Jack he grew up eating. His punk-rock aesthetic and political activism meshed beautifully with the worker-run natural foods store, but it wasn’t until a revelatory encounter with an Antique Gruyère that a true passion was kindled. He claims that this is a memoir, not a guidebook, but you couldn’t really ask for a more personable guide and introduction to the world of cheese, especially for those turned off by the lah-de-dahing often associated with it. He has a tendency to talk in circles, wandering from topic to topic and back around again, but it’s almost always enlightening and entertaining. He’ll get into aging cheese, then mirror it with his own maturation, or slice into the political aspects of making cheese (of which there are many), then segue into his own unique role in the community, or counterbalance techie talk of rennet and growth hormones with personal anecdotes of persnickety customers and earthy cheese makers. What really sets him apart, though, is his absolute disdain for pretension. He recognizes that a cheese obsession is inevitably foodie-ish, but that doesn’t mean it has to be tied up in snobbery and fetishization of trendy buzzwords (his picking apart of artisinal and terroir are especially delicious). Each chapter ends with a couple of cheese recommendations for us poor souls not lucky enough to have a Gordon Zola in our own neighborhoods.

  


 

Publisher's Weekly Review

March 2010

Beginning with the Antique Gruyere that awoke his sleeping palate to the wonders and possibilities of cheese, professional cheesemonger Edgar recounts the path that landed him behind the cheese counter of a San Francisco co-op. Armed with a healthy disdain for pretentiousness and a liberal attitude rooted in punk rock and activism, Edgar provides engaging, illuminating essays on the intricacies of cheese and its production-from milk to the use of hormones to methods of farming-as well as profiles of well-known varieties; he even makes room for oft-maligned American Cheese (Edgar himself was raised on Velveeta and Kraft Singles), as well as entertaining digressions on crazy customers. Unfortunately, Edgar's asides can irritate as often as they inform, repeating his thoughts on issues like the logistics of food cooperatives and challenges facing the nation's milk producers. Edgar's passion for the subject, including its politics and social implications, is unassailable, and should give readers a new perspective on their favorite wedge of fromage. The book works best as a bulletin from the front lines, rather than a guide to distinguishing Cashel from Maytag Blue; it should prove most interesting to locavores, fellow cheesemongers, and those interested in the U.S. food industry.

 

 

 


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