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A Cheesemonger's History of The British Isles Reviews

A Cheesemonger's History of The British Isles by Ned Palmer

A Cheesemonger's History of The British Isles

Ned Palmer

4.11 out of 5

5 reviews

Imprint: Profile Books Ltd
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
Publication date: 24 Oct 2019
ISBN: 9781788161183

Every cheese tells a story. Whether it's a fresh young goat's cheese or a big, beefy eighteen-month-old Cheddar, each variety holds the history of the people who first made it, from the builders of Stonehenge to medieval monks, from the Stilton-makers of the eighteenth-century to the factory cheesemakers of the Second World War. Cheesemonger Ned Palmer takes us on a delicious journey across Britain and Ireland and through time to uncover the histories of beloved old favourites like Cheddar and Wensleydale and fresh innovations like the Irish Cashel Blue or the rambunctious Renegade Monk.

4 stars out of 5
Wendell Steavenson
8 Nov 2019

"a welcome addition to the canon of food-centric histories"

Palmer is both a cheesemonger and a cheese historian — encyclopedic, forensic and geekily obsessed with the stuff. He writes in a jolly patter: warm, wry and deliciously digressive. He threads a chronology of cheese from the unnamed Neolithic goat-herd in the Zagros Mountains (in what is now the high borderlands between Turkey, Iran and Iraq) who first noticed an odd coagulation of sour milk and realised it was delicious, through Roman cheese production that fed armies, monks of the Middle Ages, the agricultural development of enclosures and animal husbandry and the Victorian technologies of mechanisation and railway transport.

Reviews

5 stars out of 5
7 Nov 2019

"His history is an utter delight, rousing, infectiously impassioned and inspiring of pride."

Structured around some of the UK’s most famous cheeses, which Palmer takes to be emblematic of chapters of our history, the book records his journeys to meet the people who make them today, sometimes offering recommendations on what to drink with the cheeses. This is done entirely without snobbishness. ‘There’s no point in drinking a delicate chenin blanc while eating a great grunty Cheddar,’ he writes; ‘the poor wine will just get knocked about all over the place.’ He suggests pairing soft cheeses with sparkling wine, as the resulting feel in the mouth is ‘a bit like sherbert dip dabs’. (Palmer himself came to the profession via Neal’s Yard Dairy in Covent Garden, when being a jazz pianist proved insufficiently lucrative.)... Palmer’s writing is loquacious; it is as if he has leant across the counter to regale you with tales of when he was a ‘younger monger’. His history is an utter delight, rousing, infectiously impassioned and inspiring of pride.

4 stars out of 5
Bee Wilson
23 Oct 2019

"(a )delightful and informative romp through centuries of British cheesemaking."

This book – which would make a fine Christmas present, along with a wedge of Sparkenhoe red leicester – is full of such cheese epiphanies. A critic might argue that in paying so much attention to artisans, Palmer is glossing over the fact that the average cheese-eater in Britain is still eating dull block cheddars. But I was cheered by his passion. In this world of grief and division, it is heartwarming to be reminded that not everything is getting worse. These days, they are even making good cheeses in Suffolk: the mushroomy baron bigod, made near Bungay. “Unlike the old Suffolk bang,” Palmer observes, “this is not a cheese you could sharpen knives on.”

4 stars out of 5
20 Oct 2019

"this history of British cheese by an obsessive chronicler fizzes with delight"

By the end of this unusual history book, you’re more thoroughly briefed on rind-washed and curd-washed cheeses than you will ever need to be. But Palmer writes with pace and passion, and his encounters with modern-day practitioners fizz with infectious delight.

4 stars out of 5
Caroline Sanderson
12 Jul 2019

"I much enjoyed what I've read of this culinary journey to uncover the histories of old favourites like Cheddar and Wensleydale and fresh innovations like the Irish Cashel Blue or the rambunctious Renegade Monk"

I much enjoyed what I've read of this culinary journey to uncover the histories of old favourites like Cheddar and Wensleydale and fresh innovations like the Irish Cashel Blue or the rambunctious Renegade Monk. Along the way we learn the craft and culture of cheesemaking from the eccentric, engaging characters who have revived and reinvented farmhouse and artisan traditions