Friday, June 24, 2011

Excellent Reads: Max McCalman and David Gibbons' "The Cheese Plate"

At this time one year ago, I was in Disney World, which many can say is the happiest place in the world. There are several opportunities to purchase items, gifts, and souvenirs while you're in Disney, most of them are pins or related items to the shop that are shaped like Mickey Mouse's head... and they're expensive. I can honestly say that I made one purchase throughout my time in Disney, and that was a book about cheese in a French shop in Epcot. It was a very expensive book, one of the most expensive purchases I have ever made for my book collection, but what can you say, this book was gourmet. After reading the book, I felt that I made a good purchase and the money was worth the genius, because this is a book of genius.

Max McCalman is a maitre fromager (meaning a "cheese master" in French) in New York who is also an author, speaker, and expert in the field of cheese. He also wrote Mastering Cheese and Cheese: A Connoisseur's Guide To The World's Best, which after reading this book, I would be eager to check out both. He wrote The Cheese Plate with David Gibbons and gave us a good book. This book concentrates a lot on the mechanics on how cheese should be handled when you eat it. Surprisingly, we don't follow the best practices as to how cheese should be handled. Cheese should actually be stored in room temperature and is as little wrapping as possible. That's because cheese is living and serves as a "home" to several bacteria. The bacteria can sometimes really play a role on the cheese itself. McCalman speaks against pasteurization and is pro-raw milk (which is hard to find in practices these days due to food safety) and does his best to serve cheeses that fit his practices. Other fascinating aspects in this book include the way that cheese should be served, what should be next to what, and which order should the cheese be prepared while cutting. Also featured in this book are a list of some of his favorites by country. I commend him for his take on processed cheeses, as I agree with the title "cheese food" 110%.

I was on an adventure while reading this book. It's really a fascinating experience to get a good take on someone who knows about a certain subject. In this case, it happens to be cheese. I learned some new things that I'll surely remember when I go cheese hunting. I also felt that McCalman was brutally honest about how you should approach handling cheese, how pasteurization is overrated, what you should do when you go into a cheese shop, and everything in between. I immediately began reading the book when I bought it and I am sure glad that I did so.

Due to the collection of books that I have, I generally only read my novels one time. With nonfiction reference books, such as this, I generally go back and read them whenever I may need information or want to simply collect some information. I read this book throughout and I will surely return to read this book when and if I need to go over something. McCalman is upfront with his information and definitely knows what he's talking about. The way he explained things in this book makes me want to read more of his writing, attend an event he may be speaking at, and go to restaurants in which he is a maitre fromager. If you need to know more about how to handle cheese, then this is surely a book for you.

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