Elevate Difference

The Cheese Chronicles: A Journey through the Making and Selling of Cheese in America, from Field to Farm to Table

Upon receiving Liz Thorpe’s The Cheese Chronicles, I had to ask myself: Do you really love cheese enough to get through 366 pages of it? The answer, apparently, is yes.

Now, I detest the term foodie. My boyfriend teasingly calls me a foodie in his WASP-iest voice. It seems so pretentious, so elitist, so... stupid. I can’t deny, though, my great love and interest in all things food. I love to cook. I read recipe books like novels while curled up in bed. I could watch the Food Network all day. I can happily spend two hours in a grocery store. I look at food porn. I love to eat. I love to feed people. You get the picture.

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that cheese is my favorite type of food. It is featured in every dish I love to eat and cook, and Thorpe’s loving opus to all things cheese only whet my appetite for this surprisingly scientific food.

Out of the blue, Thorpe decided she wanted a career in cheese and began her journey working behind the counter at the now famous Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City. Since then, the Yale graduate has become the managing director of the shop, where she teaches classes, finds interesting new cheeses, and works with chefs interested in featuring beautiful, American-made dairy on their menu. Thorpe is said to have professionalized the craft of cheese making while also highlighting the incredible love and passion of the people who inhabit it. We’re not talking about commercial operations here, though Thorpe is quick to point out that some of those cheeses are decent as well. The book, however, mostly focuses on small dairy farms located throughout the U.S. that are making some exquisite cheeses.

If you’ve ever seen the offerings at your local chain grocery stores, you’ll understand why cheese making isn’t considered one of America’s strong points in terms of culinary prowess. Simply put, good quality cheese isn’t as important to most Americans as it is to people in other countries. We like American on our burgers and stringy mozzarella on our pizzas, but that’s all changing. As the country becomes more interested in where the food they eat comes from, the want and need for "real" cheese is growing, and so is the average American’s willingness to pay a hefty price for artisanal, locally-made cheese.

The process is tedious, requiring just as much knowledge of science as nature. People of all kinds are making cheese all over the country, and much of it is being sold at local farmer’s markets, never to be experienced by those even one town over. There’s something fantastic about that. Cheese is supposed to be seasonal, but thanks to hormones and a few other tricks, dairy farmers can now milk cows, goats, and sheep year-round, but that’s obviously not what nature intended. Many artisanal cheese makers milk their animals when nature intended, which is just after breeding season when the animal has naturally-made milk to give. The cheese offered by these purveyors is in high demand.

I’ve learned an extraordinary amount about the art—yes, art—of cheese making from The Cheese Chronicles. Unfortunately I cannot afford high end cheese on a regular basis, but after reading Thorpe’s book, I fear I can’t ever go back to the cryovaced cheddar of my youth. When eating cheap, poorly made cheddar cheese, you can taste bile at the back of your throat, a surefire indication the cheese you are eating is shit. Now that you know what that stinging, sour sensation is in your mouth, you can never go back.

Written by: Tina Vasquez, August 19th 2009

Something tells me someone came looking for a fight. If this is the most offensive thing you can find on FR, forgive me for thinking this is some trolling at work. Feminist Review isn't the place to get entitled whiteness validated.

On the flip side, I really like this review, Tina - and Ima vegan, so I don't even eat cheese. :)

I never thought my cheese book review would be so goddamn controversial.

Really, is that how you read these comments, Anon?

Tina said you might consider discontinuing your reading of her blog posts, not FR in its entirety, which has over 200 different writers with myriad like and unlike opinions.

It was not said nor was it implied that your race forfeits your use of the term "racist". I simply clarified why calling a POC racist is an incorrect use of the term. In order to use it correctly, you'd need to apply it to those who possess structural power as a result of their race. Using "racist" in the way you are implies that the actions of those who are marginalized have equal effect as the actions of those who are in power, and they do not. There are plenty of terms which can be correctly used to describe what you seem to take issue with--bias or prejudice, for example. Therefore, it is not necessary to use a term incorrectly.

I definitely wasn’t asking for an apology; you shouldn’t apologize for how you feel. Having a white mom wouldn’t excuse you from being a racist anymore than having an African-American husband excuses me—if I were to lump people (powerful or not) into silly groups, that is. I didn’t realize being white meant forfeiting use of the term “racist.” And, yes, I think I will take your advice and discontinue reading your blog and look for a more inclusive feminist community elsewhere. I’ll be sure to pass along this suggestion to my friends—not all WASP’s, don’t you worry---because this has certainly sparked quite a conversation among us all! (For the record, they think racism is racism, and that no one group is privileged to the term.) It has been awesome reading, though, until this!

Racism = prejudice + power As POC do not have systemic power over white people, the term "racism" is incorrectly applied by the WASP-and-proud-of-it commenter.

Where is the line between accuracy, critique of power structures, and cultural sensitivity? The fact is that foodies tend to be economically privileged white people, and economically privileged white people tend to be WASPs. Sure, this is a generalization, and utilize it in the context of a review that speaks to the economic privilege of artisanal cheese consumers is to critique the existence of the conditions which make this generalization true in the first place.

To pull the race card, as a white person (but not a WASP), I found this review to be engaging, smart, and well-informed. I also found it to be critical of the dominant culture, a necessary facet of feminism that is rarely appreciated by those who make up the dominant culture.

I think people take things and themselves entirely too serious and this is definitely a case of that happening. You've gotten yourself so riled up that you've taken things out of context. I never implied that white protestants are "stupid and elitist." I said the term "foodie" seems stupid and elitist. There's no denything that fact, just read the review. I wasn't aware that I was a racist. This is news to me. I guess I should call my white mom today and tell her to stop talking to me.

This PC world we're living in is complete bullshit and I don't abide by those rules. If that offends, don't read my blog posts. I'm sorry, but that's the closest you'll get to an apology from me.

I wouldn't have thought a publication such as Feminist Review would allow racist and culturally insensitive overtones in its content. If the author of this review would like to joke around with her boyfriend about people, making generalizations and mocking them----that is fine within the confines of her own apartment. But please refrain from publishing such ill-informed nonsense in your otherwise amazing blog. Yes, it also "counts" when you are offensive to white people. Not all white protestants are "so elitist, so.....stupid." Please mock people in your "WASP-iest voice" on your own time. I have a right to my culture too, including the right not to have it mocked publicly for a few laughs.

Sincerely, White, Episcopalian woman of Scottish descent who celebrates her culture, too