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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Pearls, Politics, and Power

Pearls, Politics, and Power

By Madeleine Kunin

Pearls, Politics, and Power is a call to action for new political engagement and leadership from the women of America. Informed by conversations with elected women leaders from all levels, former three-term Vermont Governor and Ambassador to Switzerland Madeleine M. Kunin asks: What difference do women make? What is the worst part of politics, and what is the best part? What inspired these women to run, and how did they prepare themselves for public life? How did they raise money, protect their families' privacy, deal with criticism and attack ads, and work with the good old boys?

Kunin's core message is that America needs an infusion of new leadership to better address the major problems of our time. To see how women can achieve that goal, she combines her personal experience in politics; the lessons of past women's movements; the stories of young women today who have new ideas about their role in society; and interviews with a wide range of women in positions of power, looking for clues to their leadership, as well as the effects of gender stereotyping. She interviews Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, analyzes her campaign, and addresses the question: "Is the country ready?" Other interviewees include U.S. Representatives Loretta Sanchez, Linda Sanchez, Deborah Pryce, and Tammy Baldwin, and U.S. Senators Susan Collins, Amy Klobuchar, and Carol Moseley Braun, and Governors Kathleen Sibelius and Janet Napolitano.

The next generation of women will be inspired to lead by seeing women like Nancy Pelosi wielding the gavel, and seeing themselves reflected in the portraits in statehouses, courthouses, corporate and university boardrooms, and the White House. Pearls, Politics, and Power will help ensure that this inspiration is not soured or deflected, but channeled into successful candidacies by America's leaders of tomorrow. What will it take for women to assume their rightful places in the political corridors of power?

Available in: Paperback

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Pearls, Politics, and Power

Madeleine Kunin

Paperback $14.95

Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares

Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares

By Greg Marley

2011 Winner, International Association of Culinary Professionals Jane Grigson Award2011 Finalist, International Association of Culinary Professionals in the Culinary History categoryThroughout history, people have had a complex and confusing relationship with mushrooms. Are fungi food or medicine, beneficial decomposers or deadly "toadstools" ready to kill anyone foolhardy enough to eat them? In fact, there is truth in all these statements. In Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares, author Greg Marley reveals some of the wonders and mysteries of mushrooms, and our conflicting human reactions to them.

With tales from around the world, Marley, a seasoned mushroom expert, explains that some cultures are mycophilic (mushroom-loving), like those of Russia and Eastern Europe, while others are intensely mycophobic (mushroom-fearing), including, the US. He shares stories from China, Japan, and Korea-where mushrooms are interwoven into the fabric of daily life as food, medicine, fable, and folklore-and from Slavic countries where whole families leave villages and cities during rainy periods of the late summer and fall and traipse into the forests for mushroom-collecting excursions.

From the famous Amanita phalloides (aka "the Death Cap"), reputed killer of Emperor Claudius in the first century AD, to the beloved chanterelle (cantharellus cibarius) known by at least eighty-nine different common names in almost twenty-five languages, Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares explores the ways that mushrooms have shaped societies all over the globe.

This fascinating and fresh look at mushrooms-their natural history, their uses and abuses, their pleasures and dangers-is a splendid introduction to both fungi themselves and to our human fascination with them. From useful descriptions of the most foolproof edible species to revealing stories about hallucinogenic or poisonous, yet often beautiful, fungi, Marley's long and passionate experience will inform and inspire readers with the stories of these dark and mysterious denizens of our forest floor.

Available in: Paperback

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Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares

Greg Marley

Paperback $19.95

An Unlikely Vineyard

An Unlikely Vineyard

By Deirdre Heekin

Named one of the Best Wine Books of 2014 by The New York Times, An Unlikely Vineyard tells the evolutionary story of Deirdre Heekin’s farm from overgrown fields to a fertile, productive, and beautiful landscape that melds with its natural environment.

Is it possible to capture landscape in a bottle? To express its terroir, its essence of place—geology, geography, climate, and soil—as well as the skill of the winegrower?

That’s what Heekin and her chef/husband, Caleb Barber, set out to accomplish on their tiny, eight-acre hillside farm and vineyard in Vermont.

But An Unlikely Vineyard involves much more. It also presents, through the example of their farming journey and winegrowing endeavors, an impressive amount of information on how to think about almost every aspect of gardening: from composting to trellising; from cider and perry making to growing old garden roses, keeping bees, and raising livestock; from pruning (or not) to dealing naturally with pests and diseases. As Eric Asimov, chief wine critic for The New York Times, writes, “I love this book, which conveys beautifully why the best wine is, at heart, an agricultural expression.”

Challenged by cold winters, wet summers, and other factors, Deirdre and Caleb set about to grow not only a vineyard, but an orchard of heirloom apples, pears, and plums, as well as gardens filled with vegetables, herbs, roses, and wildflowers destined for their own table and for the kitchen of their small restaurant. They wanted to create, or rediscover, a sense of place, and to grow food naturally using the philosophy and techniques gleaned from organic gardening, permaculture, and biodynamic farming.

Accompanied throughout by lush photos, this gentle narrative will appeal to anyone who loves food, farms, and living well.

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

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An Unlikely Vineyard

Deirdre Heekin, Alice Feiring

Hardcover $35.00

The Contrary Farmer

The Contrary Farmer

By Gene Logsdon

Gene Logsdon has become something of a rabble-rouser in progressive farm circles, stirring up debates and controversies with his popular New Farm Magazine column, The Contrary Farmer. One of Logsdon's principle contrarieties is the opinion that--popular images of the vanishing American farmer, notwithstanding--greater numbers of people in the U.S. will soon be growing and raising a greater share of their own food than at any time since the last century. Instead of vanishing, more and more farmers will be cottage farming, part-time.

This detailed and personal account of how Logsdon's family uses the art and science of agriculture to achieve a reasonably happy and ecologically sane way of life in an example for all who seek a sustainable lifestyle. In The Contrary Farmer, Logsdon offers the tried-and-true, practical advice of a manual for the cottage farmer, as well as the subtler delights of a meditation in praise of work and pleasure. The Contrary Farmer will give its readers tools and tenets, but also hilarious commentaries and beautiful evocations of the Ohio countryside that Logsdon knows as his place in the universe.

Available in: Paperback

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The Contrary Farmer

Gene Logsdon

Paperback $19.95