It’s days like this when I think that being a cookbook reviewer is the most marvellous occupation. I have been presented with 350 or so pages of unadulterated and odorous delight. Every page I view increases taste-bud activity to the point where a triangle of something in silver foil will just not cut the mustard.
This is the most comprehensive encyclopaedia of cheese that this reviewer has thus far examined. The author, Juliet Harbutt, has done an excellent job of seeking out fine and fascinating cheese from every corner of the world. This is a volume that does not just concentrate on the obvious cheese-producing regions but also takes the path less trodden to Eastern Europe, Israel, Japan and even Brazil.
It should come as no surprise that cheese is a popular foodstuff for the majority of the world. If there is an animal giving milk then there is sure to be a cheese producer nearby. The range of texture and taste is amazing and this versatile product is used for both sweet and savoury courses.
You don’t have to be a cheese connoisseur to appreciate this volume. We all notice cheeses in even the regular supermarket. What do they taste like? What do you do with them? Any good for cooking? World Cheese Book lists cheeses by country. It gives a short description, tasting notes and how to enjoy. There is also an at-a-glance information box which gives location, age, weight and shape, size, milk, classification (soft white, for example) and producer.
It’s the photographs which are striking. Each cheese has a shot showing the whole cheese or wedge of cheese but there are also close-up shots showing the texture and marbling. If you are searching for a pretty cheese then go for Monet made in California and described as “a true artist’s palate that reflects the beautiful gardens that surround this coastal California Dairy.” It’s like a fine piece of porcelain decorated with marigold and viola flowers: not a classic cheese but a visual stunner. A soft, fresh cheese available all year round.
For a cheese that is best described as different then try Norway’s Gjetost. This is a caramel-coloured cheese that tastes …well, of caramel. It is the dairy equivalent of Marmite: you either love it or hate it. It’s very much an acquired taste but worth trying if you get the chance. I probably wouldn’t include this as part of an international cheese board, though. Savour its “delights” alone or with a slice of spice cake.
World Cheese Book is an absolute “must have” for any cheese lover or those who would like to know more. There is plenty of information about cheese making as well as indispensible advice on selecting cheeses for the perfect cheeseboard, and its accompanying wine. This would make a marvellous Christmas gift but I would consider presenting it to your loved one at the start of the festive season rather than on Christmas morning. Allow them the benefit of this book’s wisdom before they do the shopping. They will thank you for it. This is amazing value for money!
World Cheese Book
Author: Juliet Harbutt
Published by: Dorling Kindersley
Food guidebook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018