The Cheesemonger’s Tales by Arthur Cunynghame – review

book review The Cheesemonger’s Tales Sounds as though it should be a chapter from Chaucer. Probably lots of Anglo-Saxon expletives and doing something rude with milk. Well, no. The Cheesemonger’s Tales is just a thoroughly good read with no need for a PG rating. It concerns the life of a cheese and wine man, and here lies the strength of this absorbing book.

I have reviewed many a good book on wine, and I have been wafted into an almost dreamlike state whilst reading tomes on cheese in all its seductively stinky guises, but this is the first I have come across which has the marriage of these beloved products as its focus, plus a liberal helping of anecdote.

The author, Arthur Cunynghame, spent 18 years as a wine merchant and another 17 as a cheesemonger. He must be one of the few who can boast expertise in both these disparate but allied fields. He has also held Royal Warrants as cheese-maker for both Prince Charles and the Queen.

It took me only a few pages of reading (up to page 19 in fact) to be convinced that this book should have wide appeal. A simple section-head called ‘Cheeses to go with Wines’. Eureka! At last a book that provides an idiot-proof recommendation of what goes with what. Not specifics but a general guide that should enable you to make good choices.

Arthur introduces us to his food and drink heroes, and touches on the problems which beset cheese makers in particular. It seems that the Food Standards Agency have caused much unnecessary heartache, even though The Times reported in 1999 that in the previous year only 34 people in the UK had died of food poisoning – and that was not just cheese-related illness. This compares with 83 deaths from falling out of bed – would a government department suggest we saw the legs off our four-posters? We should be supporting our cheese makers, and The Cheesemonger’s Tales is a tool to that end.

There are marvellous cheeses to be had but we need to know a bit about them. We can try a crumb from the end of the cheesemonger’s knife, but that tang or creamy comfort is more enticing when one knows a little about the producer; and even more so when one has the confidence to nip into the wine merchants next door to select just the right little red to go with that Brie or Cheshire. One might even seek out a bottle of Chateau Chalon to accompany Sanchey Richard’s Mont d’Or.

The Cheesemonger’s Tales will expand your wine and cheese pairing horizons. It’s a volume that informs and charms. I have read this book and enjoyed meeting the producers but I also find myself planning a little retro cheese-and-wine party and perhaps a small but well-executed cheese board for the end of that meal with friends. Inspiring.

The Cheesemonger’s Tales – of People and Places, Cheeses and Wines
Author: Arthur Cunynghame
Published by: Loose Chippings
Price: £14.99
ISBN 978-0-9554217-0-9


Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018