FOR THE LOVE OF CHEESE by Paulette Licitra
Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese
by Eric LeMay
Free Press, June 2010
Hardcover 256 pp., ISBN: 978-1439153048
I first met Eric LeMay when we published his essay on cheese entitled "Stink." Our meeting was an auspicious encounter. Eric became Alimentum's Web Editor and a vital, indispensable member of the Alimentum family. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to read and reflect on his new book. —P.L.
Eric LeMay adores cheese.
He may not come right out and say it, but every word in every sentence of his new book, Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese, glows with the enamored shine usually reserved for deities and demi-gods.
LeMay, who’s smitten by the delights of Parisian cheese offerings while floating through the city with his true love, Chuck (his female co-adventurer), comes home to the States vastly deprived of the real, unprocessed, unpasteurized, uncooked, un-mass-produced cheese. You can take the palate out of Paris, but you can’t take Paris out of the palate.
So follows the hills and dales of his cheese adventures. You may have read about cheese adventures before. You may have had cheese adventures before. But there’s no way you’ve heard them described quite this way.
LeMay goes to great lengths to experience cheese (not merely eat it) in its best possible forms and its most authentic environments—from the labyrinth of a Cambridge, Massachusetts cheese store that boasts 300 cheeses from far-reaching places, to foggy San Francisco, to the crowded Slow Food salon in Italy where children dance in cheese costumes, to Wisconsin curd-eating fests, to the summits of French mountains and the depths of French caves. Like a mythic hero descending into the underworld for the Holy Grail, he braves daunting obstacles, exotic customs, and peculiar characters in a world gone crazy with cheese.
And Chuck is right there with him. She’s his alter ego and voice of reason. They banter back and forth trying to find the just-right words for a sought-after finally-found cheese: "It tastes smoky, but with a growl." "It makes me want to hit something." "The cheese gives you the experience of what it’s like to grow old with it.">
LeMay has a facility with language that spins your ear, throws starlight in your eyes, and skips around your brain like a kid speeding down a giant water slide. He’s got a delightful, screwball take on the world (read: cheese) that combines lucid fun-with-language and uniquely specific observation.
Etymologists will have a feast with his chapter on the use of the word "cheesy." You’re not going to find a more thorough exploration for why, how, when, and wherefore-art-thou did the word creep into our language. How can cheesy’s connotations possibly relate to that sublime substance known as cheese?
A nice surprise addendum lets us in on the voice of Chuck. In her short chapters on cheese pairings, we’re privy to some eye-opening ideas for culinary cheese allies like chocolate, whiskey, wine, coffee, and beer. Some of her proposals raise an eyebrow immediately followed by raising your appetite. Her suggestions, and her comparatively down-to-earth sensible approach (though she’s just as gaga over cheese as her partner), point us to seemingly eccentric pairings that are delicious, innovative, and elegant.
Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese celebrates exactly that: milk elevated to Royalty Everlasting. LeMay’s memoir is outstandingly cheesy...as only a great cheese that ripens beautifully can be.
July 17, 2010