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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An Unreasonable Woman

An Unreasonable Woman

By Diane Wilson

When Diane Wilson, fourth-generation shrimp-boat captain and mother of five, learns that she lives in the most polluted county in the United States, she decides to fight back. She launches a campaign against a multibillion-dollar corporation that has been covering up spills, silencing workers, flouting the EPA, and dumping lethal ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride into the bays along her beloved Texas Gulf Coast. In an epic tale of bravery, Wilson takes her fight to the courts, to the gates of the chemical plant, and to the halls of power in Austin. Along the way she meets with scorn, bribery, character assassination, and death threats. Finally Wilson realizes that she must break the law to win justice: She resorts to nonviolent disobedience, direct action, and hunger strikes. Wilson's vivid South Texas dialogue resides somewhere between Alice Walker and William Faulkner, and her dazzling prose brings to mind the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, replete with dreams and prophecies.

Available in: Paperback

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A Sanctuary of Trees

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By Gene Logsdon

As author Gene Logsdon puts it, "We are all tree huggers." But not just for sentimental or even environmental reasons. Humans have always depended on trees for our food, shelter, livelihood, and safety. In many ways, despite the Grimm's fairy-tale version of the dark, menacing forest, most people still hold a deep cultural love of woodland settings, and feel right at home in the woods.

In this latest book, A Sanctuary of Trees, Logsdon offers a loving tribute to the woods, tracing the roots of his own home groves in Ohio back to the Native Americans and revealing his own history and experiences living in many locations, each of which was different, yet inextricably linked with trees and the natural world. Whether as an adolescent studying at a seminary or as a journalist living just outside Philadelphia's city limits, Gene has always lived and worked close to the woods, and his curiosity and keen sense of observation have taught him valuable lessons about a wide variety of trees: their distinct characteristics and the multiple benefits and uses they have.

In addition to imparting many fascinating practical details of woods wisdom, A Sanctuary of Trees is infused with a philosophy and descriptive lyricism that is born from the author's passionate and lifelong relationship with nature: There is a point at which the tree shudders before it begins its descent. Then slowly it tips, picks up speed, often with a kind of wailing death cry from rending wood fibers, and hits the ground with a whump that literally shakes the earth underfoot. The air, in the aftermath, seems to shimmy and shiver, as if saturated with static electricity. Then follows an eerie silence, the absolute end to a very long life.

Fitting squarely into the long and proud tradition of American nature writing, A Sanctuary of Trees also reflects Gene Logsdon's unique personality and perspective, which have marked him over the course of his two dozen previous books as the authentic voice of rural life and traditions.

Available in: Paperback

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A Man Apart

A Man Apart

By Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow

A story of friendship, encouragement, and the quest to design a better world

A Man Apart is the story—part family memoir and part biography—of Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow’s longtime friendship with Bill Coperthwaite (A Handmade Life), whose unusual life and fierce ideals helped them examine and understand their own.

Coperthwaite inspired many by living close to nature and in opposition to contemporary society, and was often compared to Henry David Thoreau. Much like Helen and Scott Nearing, who were his friends and mentors, Coperthwaite led a 55-year-long “experiment in living” on a remote stretch of Maine coast. There he created a homestead of wooden, multistoried yurts, a form of architecture for which he was known around the world.

Coperthwaite also embodied a philosophy that he called “democratic living,” which was about empowering all people to have agency over their lives in order to create a better community. The central question of Coperthwaite’s life was, “How can I live according to what I believe?”

In this intimate and honest account—framed by Coperthwaite’s sudden death and brought alive through the month-long adventure of building with him what would turn out to be his last yurt—Forbes and Whybrow explore the timeless lessons of Coperthwaite’s experiment in intentional living and self-reliance. They also reveal an important story about the power and complexities of mentorship: the opening of one’s life to someone else to learn together, and carrying on in that person’s physical absence.

While mourning Coperthwaite’s death and coming to understand the real meaning of his life and how it endures through their own, Forbes and Whybrow craft a story that reveals why it’s important to seek direct experience, to be drawn to beauty and simplicity, to create rather than critique, and to encourage others.


Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

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Luminous Fish

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By Lynn Margulis

This collection of linked stories by internationally renowned evolutionist Lynn Margulis reveals science from the inside--its thrills, disappointments, and triumphs. A largely fictional account, it draws on her decades of experience to portray the poor judgment, exhaustion, and life-threatening dedication of real scientists--their emotional preoccupations, sexual distractions, and passions for research. The esoteric, demanding, sometimes exhilarating world of science emerges from the shadows of its passive narrative into the sunlight of the personal voice of those who attempt to wrench secrets directly from nature. All of us who struggle to balance family, professional, and social commitments with intellectual quest will be intrigued by the humanity of these tales.

Available in: Hardcover

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