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Monday, April 17, 2017

* FOOD BOOK OF THE MONTH! * "The Oxford Companion to Cheese"

THE OXFORD COMPANION TO CHEESE (Oxford University Press, 2016, 849 pages, ISBN 978-0-19-933088-1 $65 USD hardbound) has been edited by Catherine Donnelly, a food scientist at the University of Vermont and co-director of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese. She is well-known for her investigations into microbiological safety of raw-milk cheeses. 1400 named cheese varieties and styles are found throughout the world: they are all here, from basic fresh cheese through Brie to washed rinds to blues. Coverage begins with cheese on the farm, moves to the microscope, and then on to the shop and the home plate. The Companion has about 855 entries for the cheeses, for the countries, for the production from cow-goat-sheep through to yak-reindeer-camel, with some important breeds within each being noted. Of 325 names (from 35 countries) in the Directory, Kathy Guidi was a major contributor from Canada, as are Laura Shine, Janice Beaton, Mary Ann Ferrer and others. For Canada, there is a Canada article plus separately signed articles on Quebec and Ontario. Most articles are signed; the rest are by the editor or editorial board. Material includes a lot of information on microbiology and the chemistry of cheese. There are 150 black-and-white images plus some 16-page full-colour inserts. And a concluding directory of cheese museums from around the world!
Audience and level of use: cheese lovers, cheesemongers and cheesemakers.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: under Cantal, in a column and a half, we find a description based on raw cow's milk. The name itself comes from the departement in south-central France which is loaded with grassland for daily grazing. It's one of the oldest French cheeses, with records going back over 2000 years. It is traditionally served as "aligot" (Cantal Jeune and mashed potatoes).
The downside to this book: there was a lot of technical details, of major value to cheese producers but marginal interest to consumers. Nevertheless, that's the whole point of the Oxford Companions.
The upside to this book: very comprehensive.
Quality/Price Rating: 94.


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