The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese, by Michael Paterniti
With that title was there any chance that I wasn’t going to read this book? Buzz for “The Telling Room” began months before it’s release, fueled by this review in the New York Times.
While in grad school, the author had a part-time gig copy-editing the Zingerman’s newsletter. This is how he learned of the existence of a Spanish cheese called Paramor de Guzman. Ari Weinzweig’s description of the cheese was so evocative that Paterniti never forgot about it. (At $20/lb, the author couldn’t fathom affording what he then thought must be the World’s Most Expensive Cheese.)
Years later Paterniti accepted a writing assignment in Spain. He immediately recalled Paramor de Guzman. With the help of a Spanish speaking friend he tracks down the cheesemaker, eventually visiting him Guzman, the Castillian town where the cheese was first made. This is where Paterniti befriends the original cheesemaker Ambrosio Molinas and learns the history of the cheese, it’s rocket ride to fame, and it’s sudden (yet ongoing) demise.
More than that, though, Paterniti learns about the old ways of life that are still the mode in Castille, eventually moving his own growing family to the town for a short time. Because there, people make their own cheese. There, people make their own wine. There, every family has a bodega (cave) where they age their cheese and wine. It is in the front rooms of these caves that the villagers of Guzman invite friends to share their meals and their stories.
Here is one of my favorite passages:
“When you put something alive in your mouth,” he said, “it makes you more alive. The people who produce wine are mostly pedantic and stupid,” he continued, jabbing the air with his glass, sloshing the dregs. “They don’t make wine; wine makes itself, God makes wine. They may keep things clean and in good order, but the grapes make the wine. Whenever I serve my wine, not only is it cold, but there’s an aroma that invades the whole table. You have to listen for what the wine itself says, not the people who make it. And worse are the people who buy the expensive stuff. They don’t know shit! They couldn’t care less about the aroma and finer nuances of drinking wine. They don’t hear a thing the wine is saying.”
Yeah. You should probably read this book.
Thanks to jamiek for the reminder to post this!