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Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge
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Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  377 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
Witty and irreverent, informative and provocative, Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge is the highly readable story of Gordon Edgar's unlikely career as a cheesemonger at San Francisco's worker-owned Rainbow Grocery Cooperative. A former punk-rock political activist, Edgar bluffed his way into his cheese job knowing almost nothing, but quickly discovered a whole world of ama ...more
Paperback, 236 pages
Published February 17th 2010 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company (first published April 1st 2009)
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I live in Wisconsin. I don’t know much about cheese. This is a problem, a missed opportunity, because within thirty minutes’ drive are both world famous cheese stores and dairy farms. As I’ve lived in the state for thirteen years I figured the time had come to learn something about cheese and cheese culture. I hit a rural cheese store with my oldest son a couple weeks ago and took a picture of part of the case:


Intimidating, right? So much cheese…

Goddamn, I’m glad I stumbled upon Gordon Edgar’s
Nov 23, 2010 Ciara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i feel a little bit weird writing about this book because i was once acquainted with the author. it's easier to write about books when i have never corresponded in a friendly way with the people who wrote them. especially since my reviews tend to be pretty harsh!

but i wouldn't say anything harsh about this book. it was legitimately pretty awesome. i like cheese, i like reading about people's experiences working in collective environments, i share many of gordon's political opinions & pet pee
Jay Hinman
I used to talk to this Gordon Edgar fella back when he sold records at the Maximum Rocknroll record store "Epicenter Zone" in San Francisco, around about 1991-93 or thereabouts. Very nice, talkative guy; no attitude whatsoever, and a sort of post-hippie political/peace punk vibe about him, if my memory serves. He's one of the many people of that era whom I used to regularly see at shows or in record stores whom I'd forgotten about or who left town ages ago, so a year ago I was pretty heartened t ...more
John Mcnamara
Feb 18, 2010 John Mcnamara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great smash-up of cultures: cheese, punkers, co-operators, and the surrounding communities of foodies, labor activists, and rural-urban divide. Gordon does an incredible job of bringing these worlds into focus and sharing the lessons from each in modern day parables. As an added bonus, he offers some great descriptions of the cheeses of the day. I was fortunate enough that one of my local stores put out a wheel of parmigiano reggiano while reading this book (it turns out that cheese is the per ...more
Hannah Givens
Aug 06, 2016 Hannah Givens rated it really liked it
Things I Love: 1) Workplace memoirs. 2) Cheese.

Match made in heaven.

It’s open and easy to read, not too heavy on the emotional memoir junk but sooo punk rock. He buys and sells cheese for a grocery store, but kind of a hippie food coop type one, so it’s a balance between everyday and fancy. It’s not about how we should all eat handmade single-batch our-goats-wear-homemade-sweaters cheese and nothing else -- he understands the money and class issues that cheese brings up. He also understands th
Feb 05, 2016 Spiros rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those fond of "cheesy comestibles"
Shelves: freebox
I've reached an age where, in an access of morbidity, I will idly play the "What could I give up if I had to?" game: under doctor's orders, would I rather give up steak or oysters? Steak, of course. Beer or whiskey, lamb or pork, wine or coffee? I gave up pot nearly 30 years ago (it made my feet feel swollen), gin very reluctantly recently, when I discovered that it got me catastrophically drunk. Could I give up cheese, bread or pasta? I fear the answer there would have to be "I'd rather be euth ...more
Susan H.
Feb 06, 2016 Susan H. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
"I know it's my contrary nature, but when I think of 'artisinal production,' I think of feudal muck and lack of sanitation a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I am definitely not saying that pasteurization makes superior cheese, but fetishizing the traditional has its drawbacks, too."

What's not to love about this book? It's about cheese, sure-- but it's also about urban living and rural farming; food culture and grueling retail work; punk history and the ever-lingering after-effects of Ronald
(disclaimer: I know the author, sort of. We're not in touch anymore, but he once got me into an American Cheese Society show for reasons since lost to memory. I think I still have the pin, though, and I could probably track down the notes I took at the cheese and beer tasting I attended.)

Great mix of info about cheese, cheese culture, workers' co-ops, the retail world, and even a little about punk rock. I really enjoyed all the anecdotes about working at the co-op, and stories of the places wher
May 29, 2010 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been reading a lot of foodie books lately, and have decided that there are two main categories. There's a type of writing that is extra-precious, and tries really hard to romanticize eating, cooking, back-to-the-land goat raising, etc. Then there are books like this one, written by real people about their honest, unpretentious love of something. Gordon Edgar is a great antidote to foodie snobbery. Not only is Cheesemonger a funny and endearing story of an ordinary bloke's developing relatio ...more
Oct 29, 2013 Canice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a great read, by one of the Bay Area's most respected cheesemongers. Gordon Edgar tells how he went from a punk rocker of the 1980s to a worker-owner in the cheese department at the largest worker-owned cooperative in the U.S. He joined Rainbow knowing virtually nothing about cheese and tells how his interest, knowledge, and passion for the curd grew, overlapping commonalities between his increasing role in the co-op and his years in progressive politics (by way of punk). Each chapter ends ...more
3 stars. I liked this book. The author is very personable and has some fun stories about cheese, farmers, the cows, goats, and sheep and cheesemaking, and the Rainbow Cooperative and their customers in San Francisco. The author definitely has a love for the cheese business. Yet towards the end I found myself skimming. The book became too repetitive and could have benefited from a good editor. Worth a read, especially if you want to learn the basics of cheese production and about some good Ameri ...more
May 18, 2010 Shannon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Love the cheese suggestions at the end of each chapter! I will definitely be trying some of them out. Edgar's democratic approach to cheese was appreciated, as I worried it might be a bit of a "cheese snob" memoir.

The one negative I see is that his story got repetitive after a while; I wish there had been more anecdotes about experiences with customers, farmers, and sellers and a little less repetition about his punk background and the store's philosophy (not that they weren't interesting topic
Nicole Means
Mar 13, 2016 Nicole Means rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cheese, glorious cheese-- I have often wondered how different types of milk can become such an amazing food. In a tireless effort to answer this questions, I have spent much of the last year reading books about cheese, and I have finally found the most honest writing to this question in Gordon Edgar's "Cheesemonger: Life on the Wedge." Edgar's lack of pretention is mostly due to his punk background and his work in a San Francisco co-op. He did not initially intend to become a cheesemonger, but a ...more
Nov 27, 2010 Rory rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs-and-bios
Blech. I'm not sure who this guy thought his audience was, but I'm pretty sure who he very much WANTED his audience to be: people who would be just in AWE of his punk-rock roots and the incredible fact that he SOMEHOW became this kick-ass, knowledgeable MONGER who still fucking rocks and keeps it real, man, and is willing to share his wisdom and attitude (and some basic info about cheese) with them. Pass.
Liz S.
Jun 05, 2010 Liz S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010
More like 3.5 stars, but I rounded up. The organization is a little muddled and the connections between cheese and punk rock politics that he wants to make can be tenuous at best (e.g., cultures vs. culture, get it?), but what the hell, I really liked his down-to-earth attitude toward cheese and food and farm politics, and the cheese suggestions at the end of every chapter are great.
Jun 14, 2014 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book and certain points I really had to agree with the author on. At times the narrative was a bit meandering but still interesting. I enjoyed the descriptions of cheese at the end of each chapter and appreciated the comparisons, as I am fairly new to artisan cheeses. This book was informative in an easy to read way without overwhelming you in facts. However, I do wish the author went into a bit more detail in some places.

As a person who works retail, I definitely agree with his
Laurie Neighbors
Jan 23, 2010 Laurie Neighbors rated it it was amazing
Yeah, my boyfriend wrote this book. Yup.
Rogue Reader
Aug 19, 2012 Rogue Reader rated it really liked it
A good, somewhat sarcastic read about the making of a punk rock activist, and almost incidentally, a cheesemonger. Gordon Edgar made his cheese bones in San Francisco's famous Rainbow Grocery, where he learned cheese and retail, and honed his political skill set with the knife. Edgar shows increasing discernment when it comes to cheese, and rails variously against all of its real and presumed adversaries. The discussion of distribution and distributors is particularly informative. It's clear tha ...more
Peter Derk
Oct 12, 2010 Peter Derk rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
I’m not what you’d call a foodie. I do like to cook, and I’m working on getting better at it, but at the same time knowing the ins and outs of foods isn’t a passion of mine. To put it simply, I love me an Oatmeal Cream Pie that’s been sitting in the glovebox (aka Dessert Cart) for a couple days.
That said, this book is pretty entertaining for someone who isn’t already interested in cheese.
What separates this book from other food books is that Edgar, though passionate about cheese, doesn’t try to
best book ever on cheese? no. fairly entertaining chroncile of cheese, imported cheese, local cheese making (especially in bay area califa)? yes. author goes through how he got started as a cheesemonger, his store, rainbow grocery in san francisco workers coop/ worker owned, some funny and interesting stories about dairy farmers, dairy industry, cheese making and storing. some history of french cheese biz and importing into usa, a bit about spainish and basque cheeses too. interesting perspectiv ...more
Aaron Curtiss
Apr 24, 2012 Aaron Curtiss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm now a Bay Area expat, so it's at least a little bit true that my 4-star review is influenced by nostalgia and the added understanding from having lived in SF in the 1990s and 2000s. Still, the author does an nice job of bridging -- philosophically anyway -- the two seemingly separate worlds of punk rock and food coop ethos (not that they're synonymous), and grocery store Athenos. I especially enjoyed the recommendations that close out each chapter, the explorations into the nifty semantic ov ...more
Dec 02, 2011 Stephen rated it really liked it
Combining unexpected and unlikely ingredients in the kitchen may produce culinary disaster or a great dish. Gordon Edgar wrote a book about cheese and the politics of punk rock and worker-owned grocery stores. And he had the audacity to subtitle his story of being a cheese retailer "A Life on the Wedge." For those interested in learning more about cheese, especially artisanal cheese, this is a good introduction. There is a glossary; he makes all manner of cheese recommendations. The reader who c ...more
Sara Wetzel
Aug 23, 2016 Sara Wetzel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The farther I got into this book, the more that I liked it. Mr. Edgar has a unique perspective on cheese, and he is up front about what he doesn't and can't know. Engaging style of writing, and touches on some of the complexity about food and affordability, appreciating good food without being a snob, and other less discussed dynamics of America's local food, small farming culture. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in what they eat.
I don't let being lactose intolerant stop me from loving cheese. I loved the idea of reading a cheese memoir and entertaining the thought of one day becoming a cheesemonger myself. (I may have gone so far as to talk business plans with Nathan. It involves a food truck. AND CHEESE)

But what I have absolutely no patience for is this -- older men who insist on referring to things that are not punk rock as punk rock.

Things that are punk rock -- punk rock bands during a particular time period.

Things t
Sep 12, 2010 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I almost put this book down after the first chapter or two: I felt like the author was posturing, and was preparing for another 'life in the trenches of the food world' memoir. Which, it sort of is. But I'm glad I kept going. The author wound up being more likable than I expected he would be after the first 20 pages. And in the end, I got a ton of new perspectives on cheese and the retail-grocery world in general, some good philosophical POVs about the morality as it intersects with our modern f ...more
This guy hearts himself, but it’s a fun read, and you will learn a little bit about cheese. And about people who buy cheese from a co-op in SF. My favorite part is the fact that he knew nothing about cheese when he accidentally landed up behind a cheese counter and now knows a lot. Thank goodness there is hope for learning on the job.
Jaina Bee
Aug 15, 2010 Jaina Bee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: useful
Full disclosure: I am a frequent customer and longtime fan of the author, and yes, I've been to his parties, so you might think I'm biased. A bit, yeah. However…

The confluence of seemingly disparate themes in this book blows my little mind. It's like the cheese he describes a company making when they had to use up a bunch of milk real fast and blended cow's and goat's milk, crossed their fingers, and produced a damn fine cheese. It's totally punk rock, but years of practice and learning and expe
Feb 03, 2011 Melody rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Very enjoyable foray into both cheese and Edgar's value system. He's an unreconstructed punk rocker with a job in an employee-owned grocery store in San Francisco's Mission District. What's not to love about any of that, if you're me?

Whole vistas of undiscovered cheeses spread themselves out in front of me after reading this book, but more importantly, I came away with a better knowledge of the cheesemonger's life. Any retail life is fraught with moments which are hilarious only in hindsight, a
Mar 20, 2011 Linda rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The best parts of "Cheesemonger" were about cheese. The best in cheese. I think the most frequently mentioned cheese in the book is "Taleggio." At the end of each chapter, he highlights some cheeses -- some of my favorites are in the book, too, like Ocooch Mountain and Pleasant Ridge Reserve. I failed, however, to grasp the significance of how the author's existence as a punk anarchist in the '80s had anything to do with cheese and I kept wishing he would stop bringing it up, at least, without e ...more
I really wanted to love this book. I love cheese, I love food writing, I have a high interest in learning more about the industry and how this food is made and sold. Unfortunately, this didn't quite do it for me. While there are a lot of great anecdotes from the author about how he got into the business, what it's like to be a cheesemonger and stories from his work life, interspersed throughout the work is also the author's views on working in a worker-owned coop and the attendant social and pol ...more
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Gordon Edgar loves cheese and worker-owned co-ops, and has been combining both of these infatuations as a cheesemonger at Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco since 1994. Edgar has been a judge at cheese competitions, a board member for the California Artisan Cheese Guild, and, since 2002, has blogged at Surrounded by his vast and decaying collection of zines and obscur ...more
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