- Paperback: 253 pages
- Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing Company (20 Jun. 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1603585060
- ISBN-13: 978-1603585064
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.3 x 22.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 324,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Cheese and Culture: A History of Cheese and Its Place in Western Civilization Paperback – 20 Jun 2013
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More About the Author
About the Author
Paul Kindstedt, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Vermont in the department of Nutrition and Food Sciences. He teaches Dairy Chemistry, Fermented Dairy Foods, and Cheese and Culture.
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Comparisons of embryology and rennet coagulation are made. Some statements might make a reader do a double take such as, "from the linage of David, a thousand years later, would come the son of a carpenter, whose influence on western civilization and cheese making was arguably greater than that of any other person."
The second half of the book dwells more with where specific types of cheeses were developed and how, why they wound up with certain flavors and physical characteristics. This book contains a multitude of facts, such as; the rise in grain production, how the product of bread cereals collapse in "Holland, the physical structure of peat bogs all leading to cheese production, the American Revolution and slave trade. The changes in regulations concerning cheese in the European Union and worldwide is also covered.
This is a book for readers wishing to delve deeply into cheese and a more massive amount of details that surround it.
Lots of topics were left out. Geographical coverage is limited. Most European countries, Latin America, and the non-ancient Middle Eastern countries do not get mentioned (India is briefly mentioned). Products like cottage cheese that don't keep long don't get much attention. How cheese was used in recipes was not mentioned.
To be fair I did learn some interesting things. For example, some ancient religions expected cheese tithes. Ancient Roman soldiers got cheese rations.
This is a great book indeed, however, I found the biblical references out of place. The author seems to take them as fact, which is fine, I love faiths of all kinds, but not in an historical text, which should be more based on fact. Still, I see the point of adding it, it shows is how long cheese has been a part of our lives.
I particularly loved the bits where the author explained why region affected the various kinds of cheeses. Being hot and muggy India couldn't support hard cheeses and thus had to settle for softer cheeses that were meant for immediate consumption.
All in all a very good read. Just be prepared to learn a lot about history too and not just about cheese.
I began reading, somewhat skeptical re: the (supposed) premise that but for cheese there would be no civilization, and while I still believe there are other things of import, very much enjoyed this particular rendition of the history of our civilization and how it came to be. He takes us from neolithic societies to modern trade exploring agriculture, craft, economics and many other aspects of society via the evolution of cheese and cheese making.
Although very nearly a life-long student, history was always my weakest subject, feeling that it was merely memorization of names, dates, places... I wish I had had a professor like Paul Kindstedt. His love of the subject comes through so well i can imagine that he is an animated and charismatic professor. This is clearly not a "publish or perish" work so much as a book distilled from years of teaching, research, practice, and love. His writing style is fluid, developing a narrative which reads more like literature than a treatise on cheese (or any non-fiction topic). As a scientist i want to compare him to Carl Sagan for the fluidity and simplicity with which he conveys information. really, a joy to read.
I would not be surprised if those happening upon this book expect some kind of instruction in cheese making. You will not find that here (and, as I have dabbled, it may well have been why i initially picked it up). I enjoyed reading it so much that I have actually forgotten why I got it! Along the way I learned some of what I missed in my history classes.
I still do not believe that civilization hinges solely on cheese (although I do not think he ever intended to present it that way). It is one more reminder of the interconnectedness of all things. That said, perhaps civilization does hinge on cheese culture because without it (and the many things connected to same), who knows where we would be now? I suspect that if anyone could answer that question it would be Paul Kindstedt.
If you have even the slightest interest in this subject I would heartily recommend this book. After upwards of 20 years of education and a lifetime as a bibliophile, I have come across precious few works of non-fiction as well written as this one.
From there, Kindstedt gives us a panoramic view of the development of cheese in European and Asian cultures. He takes us from the importance of cheese in the cult of the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna, to the rapid development of cheese in Mediterranean cultures, to the advent of systematic cheese making in Rome and in early Christian monasteries, to the bewildering range of regional cheeses that developed in England, France, the Netherlands and elsewhere during the Middle Ages. Kindstedt devotes considerable attention in his later chapters to the development of the cheese industry in America. Among other things, he tells us that one of the major (if not THE major) reasons for war between Pilgrims and Indians was the Pilgrims' dairy cows, wandering into the Massachusetts woods and chasing away the wild game the Indians relied on.
"Cheese and Culture" contains a wealth of fascinating information; however, it is not a popular history for casual readers, but a serious text for scholars of food history and anthropology. I would compare the book to a fine, aged Parmesan: on the dry side, but rewarding nonetheless.