Chelsea Green Publishing


Pages:256 pages
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603582377
Pub. Date January 21, 2010


A Life on the Wedge

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
January 21, 2010


Witty and irreverent, informative and provocative, Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge is the highly readable story of Gordon Edgar's unlikely career as a cheesemonger at San Francisco's worker-owned Rainbow Grocery Cooperative. A former punk-rock political activist, Edgar bluffed his way into his cheese job knowing almost nothing, but quickly discovered a whole world of amazing artisan cheeses. There he developed a deep understanding and respect for the styles, producers, animals, and techniques that go into making great cheese.

With a refreshingly unpretentious sensibility, Edgar intertwines his own life story with his ongoing love affair with cheese, and offers readers an unflinching, highly entertaining on-the-ground look at America's growing cheese movement. From problem customers to animal rights, business ethics to taste epiphanies, this book offers something for everyone, including cheese profiles and recommendations for selecting the very best-not just the most expensive-cheeses from the United States and around the world and a look at the struggles dairy farmers face in their attempts to stay on and make their living from the land.

Edgar-a smart, progressive cheese man with an activist's edge-enlightens and delights with his view of the world from behind the cheese counter and his appreciation for the skill and tradition that go into a good wedge of Morbier.

Cheesemonger is the first book of its kind-a cheese memoir with attitude and information that will appeal to everyone from serious foodies to urban food activists.


"A consummate cheese retailer, Gordon Edgar knows his cheese and aims to please. Unique in the offering of cheese books, this one is more than an encyclopedia. Gordon weaves an intricate web of his world at Rainbow Grocery: a democracy of passionate food mavens, a look at social justice, and the foibles of the human condition. It's all there. Gordon's expressive and entertaining prose exudes his smiling wit. His tales are both light hearted and poignant. He dares to ask all of the tough questions. Far from the cheese vats of Vermont, I want to hang out at Rainbow Grocery, get the cheese vibe and watch the world go by. Blessed is the cheese monger."--Allison Hooper, cofounder, Vermont Butter & Cheese

"Gordon Edgar offers a singular glimpse into the exceedingly diverse, complex and sometimes incomprehensible post-60s world of cheese. Embedded within this humorous and provocative life story of a punk rocker-anarchist-turned-cheesemonger is a thought-provoking exploration of some of the great issues that loom large in the world of higher-end cheeses and, indeed, the American food system."--Paul Kindstedt, author of American Farmstead Cheese

"Gordon Edgar, punkster turned cheesemonger, has a knack for telling stories and crams his passion, wry humor, and knowledge into every page. It's such a treat to read that as I neared the end, I started to ration the pages to make it last longer."--Didi Emmons, author of Vegetarian Planet

"Weaving together seemingly disparate worlds, Gordon Edgar takes you on as a passenger in his wickedly funny and insightful memoir. By the time I finished reading, I had learned new things about cheese, for sure, but was more struck by his unique and humorous take on cooperatives, community and how Americans relate to their food. Cheese may be the focus, but human dynamics, in all our shared quirks, passions and constructed factions, is really the subject."--Becky Selengut, chef and author

"Cheesemonger is a deliciously fun read, cover to cover. Gordon gives a knowledgeable and thoroughly unabashed view from the front lines of a surging field."--Max McCalman, author of The Cheese Plate, Cheese: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best, and Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maitre Fromager, and Dean of Curriculum at

"All I can say is this, if Randall Grahm, of Bonny Doon, would have discovered cheese before wine, he would have written this book. Cheesemonger is witty, insightful, and utterly packed with passion and fine humor. This book now goes on the 'required reading' list for my entire staff!"--Charlie Trotter, Restaurant Charlie Trotter's

"Not surprisingly, never before have the themes of punk rock and cheese appeared between the covers of the same book. But cheesemonger, author, and former punk rock aficionado Gordon Edgar's world is different. His unique perspective as a cheesemonger in a San Francisco co-op, his uncontainable passion for cheese, and his ability to weave a tale like no other make Cheesemonger one of the most readable, entertaining, and educational books on cheese--and life--ever written."--Laura Werlin, author of Laura Werlin's Cheese Essentials

"Smart, compassionate, and fun to read, Cheesemonger took me by surprise! Who would expect the memoir of a cheese man to be so fascinating, playful, and refreshing? It's great to hear a voice on food from the punk route, and Gordon Edgar brings a fresh and important perspective that we could all use for handmade foods, those that aren't, and the people who buy them."--Deborah Madison, author of Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets and What We Eat When We Eat Alone

"If you think culture applies only to transforming milk into cheese, then read this book! Gordon Edgar takes you on an irreverent journey through history, punk music, lust, food politics, and daily challenges faced by small-scale farmers and co-op retailers. He simultaneously demystifies cheese, while wrestling with the myths and contradictions of the global food system. He will make you laugh, cry, and debate him!"--Jeffrey Roberts, author of The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese

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.

Ian Chipman, for Booklist-
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 Gruyere 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.


Gordon Edgar

Gordon Edgar loves cheese and worker-owned co-ops, and has been combining both of these infatuations as the cheese buyer for San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery Cooperative since 1994. Edgar has been a judge at numerous national cheese competitions, a board member for the California Artisan Cheese Guild, and has had a blog since 2002, which can be found at Edgar is the author of Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge (Chelsea Green 2010) and he enjoys mold in the right places, good cheese stink, and washing his hands upwards of one hundred times a day.



December 02, 2015

Gordon Edgar at Green Arcade

1680 Market Street, San Francisco, CA, 94102 | Gordon Edgar
On December 2nd, Gordon Edgar will read from his new book "Cheddar" at the Green Arcade. This event will also feature "High Spirits: The Legacy Bars of San Francisco" by J.K. Dineen.

See all Events by this Author




By Gordon Edgar

And what it can tell us about our history, cultural identity, and food politics

One of the oldest, most ubiquitous, and beloved cheeses in the world, the history of cheddar is a fascinating one. Over the years it has been transformed, from a painstakingly handmade wheel to a rindless, mass-produced block, to a liquefied and emulsified plastic mass untouched by human hands. The Henry Fordism of cheddar production in many ways anticipated the advent of industrial agriculture.  They don’t call it “American Cheese” for nothing.

Cheddar is one man’s picaresque journey to find out what a familiar food can tell us about ourselves. Cheddar may be appreciated in almost all American homes, but the advocates of the traditional wheel versus the processed slice often have very different ideas about food. Since cheddar—with its diversity of manufacturing processes and tastes—is such a large umbrella, it is the perfect food through which to discuss many big food issues that face our society.

More than that, though, cheddar actually holds a key to understanding not only issues surrounding food politics, but also some of the ways we think of our cultural identity. Cheddar, and its offshoots, has something to tell us about this country: the way people rally to certain cheddars but not others; the way they extol or denounce the way others eat it; the role of the commodification of a once-artisan cheese and the effect that has on rural communities. The fact that cheddar is so common that it is often taken for granted means that examining it can lead us to the discovery of usually unspoken truths.

Author Gordon Edgar (Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge) is well equipped to take readers on a tour through the world of cheddar. For more than fifteen years he has worked as an iconoclastic cheesemonger in San Francisco, but his sharp talent for observation and social critique were honed long before then, in the world of ’zines, punk rock, and progressive politics. His fresh perspectives on such a seemingly common topic are as thought-provoking as they are entertaining.

Available in: Hardcover

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Good Morning, Beautiful Business

Good Morning, Beautiful Business

By Judy Wicks

It's not often that someone stumbles into entrepreneurship and ends up reviving a community and starting a national economic-reform movement. But that's what happened when, in 1983, Judy Wicks founded the White Dog Café on the first floor of her house on a row of Victorian brownstones in West Philadelphia. After helping to save her block from demolition, Judy grew what began as a tiny muffin shop into a 200-seat restaurant-one of the first to feature local, organic, and humane food. The restaurant blossomed into a regional hub for community, and a national powerhouse for modeling socially responsible business.

Good Morning, Beautiful Business is a memoir about the evolution of an entrepreneur who would not only change her neighborhood, but would also change her world-helping communities far and wide create local living economies that value people and place as much as commerce and that make communities not just interesting and diverse and prosperous, but also resilient.

Wicks recounts a girlhood coming of age in the sixties, a stint working in an Alaska Eskimo village in the seventies, her experience cofounding the first Free People store, her accidental entry into the world of restauranteering, the emergence of the celebrated White Dog Café, and her eventual role as an international leader and speaker in the local-living-economies movement.

Her memoir traces the roots of her career - exploring what it takes to marry social change and commerce, and do business differently. Passionate, fun, and inspirational, Good Morning, Beautiful Business explores the way women, and men, can follow both mind and heart, do what's right, and do well by doing good.

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

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Good Morning, Beautiful Business

Judy Wicks

Paperback $17.95



By Mark Schimmoeller

Why a unicycle? Why a cross-country trip? Why leave a prominent New York magazine and return to the simple life in Kentucky?

Reminiscent of classic literary travelogues, Mark Schimmoeller’s Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America takes readers on an inward, emotional journey as he inches across landscapes and communities from North Carolina to Arizona.

Schimmoeller became inspired by his unicycle as an adolescent. It taught him that rushing—whether down the driveway or toward adulthood—would cause a fall, and so, instead of accepting the speeding, straight line that de-fines modern American life, he adopted his single wheel’s wayward rhythms.

Written with poise and humor, Slowspoke is more than a cross-country trip on a unicycle; it’s a meditation on a playful, recalcitrant slowness that is increasingly rare in a culture obsessed with acceleration. At times ach-ing and other times joyful, Schimmoeller intersperses recollections of his journey with vignettes of his present-day, off-the-grid homesteading with his wife in Kentucky and their efforts to save an old-growth forest.

Schimmoeller’s personal journey will resonate with anyone who has slowed down to experience life at a unicycle’s speed or who longs to do so, who has fallen in love or searched for it, or who has treasured tall trees or mourned their loss.

Slowspoke: A Unicyclist's Guide to America is also available as an audio book! Browse and download the book here >>

Available in: Paperback

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Mark Schimmoeller

Paperback $17.95

In the Company of Bears

In the Company of Bears

By Benjamin Kilham

Imagine raising an orphaned bear cub, carefully reintroducing her to the wild, then being welcomed back, almost daily, to observe her wild world for more than seventeen years. Imagine visiting her in her feeding spots, watching her with her mates and her young, peering into her den, and, over time, observing the lives of all the other wild bears in her territory and surrounding ones. That is what happened to Ben Kilham, whose long-term study of wild black bears has shattered conventional wisdom about how they live their lives.

In the Company of Bears unveils Kilham’s groundbreaking work. Like others, he once thought that black bears were solitary. But he discovered that they actually have extraordinary communication and interaction with each other—creating and enforcing codes of conduct, forming alliances, and even sharing territory and food when supplies are ample.

In the Company of Bears (originally released in hardcover as Out on a Limb) is more than a story about bears. It’s the story of a scientist once kept from a traditional science career by his dyslexia, only to find that thinking and seeing differently was his greatest gift and his best tool to interpret the non-human world.

In the Company of Bears is also available as an audio book! Browse and download the book here >>

Available in: Paperback

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Benjamin Kilham, Temple Grandin

Paperback $17.95



By Alan Weisman

Los Llanos—the rain-leached, eastern savannas of war-ravaged Colombia—are among the most brutal environments on Earth and an unlikely setting for one of the most hopeful environmental stories ever told. Here, in the late 1960s, a young Colombian development worker named Paolo Lugari wondered if the nearly uninhabited, infertile llanos could be made livable for his country’s growing population. He had no idea that nearly four decades later, his experiment would be one of the world’s most celebrated examples of sustainable living: a permanent village called Gaviotas.

In the absence of infrastructure, the first Gaviotans invented wind turbines to convert mild breezes into energy, hand pumps capable of tapping deep sources of water, and solar collectors efficient enough to heat and even sterilize drinking water under perennially cloudy llano skies. Over time, the Gaviotans’ experimentation has even restored an ecosystem: in the shelter of two million Caribbean pines planted as a source of renewable commercial resin, a primordial rain forest that once covered the llanos is unexpectedly reestablishing itself.

Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez has called Paolo Lugari “Inventor of the World.” Lugari himself has said that Gaviotas is not a utopia: “Utopia literally means ‘no place.’ We call Gaviotas a topia, because it’s real.”

Relive their story with this special 10th-anniversary edition of Gaviotas, complete with a new afterword by the author describing how Gaviotas has survived and progressed over the past decade.

Available in: Paperback

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Alan Weisman

Paperback $16.95