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The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  287 ratings  ·  63 reviews
The French, sans doute, love their fromages. And there’s much to love: hundreds of gloriously pungent varieties—crumbly, creamy, buttery, even shot through with bottle-green mold. So many varieties, in fact, that the aspiring gourmand may wonder: How does one make sense of it all?

In The Whole Fromage, Kathe Lison sets out to learn what makes French cheese so remarkable—why
Paperback, 274 pages
Published June 25th 2013 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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3.57  · 
Rating details
 ·  287 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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Jenny (Reading Envy)
"How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?" - Charles de Gaulle

How indeed? Especially when it is upwards of 600, or was, before smaller operations started shutting down more frequently.

I have long been curious about what made cheeses different from one another, not really understanding the science, and this book has filled in many of those gaps for me. The author also profiles individual French cheeses of significance, looking at how they are
Aug 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
French Cheesemaking Tradition

French folks are serious as a heart attack about their cheese. The French cheese industry is tousling with itself to incorporate the new with the old. So many labor saving devices have been invented over the years yet the question is whether they change the taste of the cheese. Sadly where last century there were 150 to 200 private cheesemakers there are now less than a dozen to take their place. The younger generations have left the farms and moved to the city where
Aug 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
While The Whole Fromage has a lot of interesting historical anecdotes about cheese and its centrality to French culture, its flat, unengaging narrator and meandering tone make it not worth the effort. Pass.
Jun 10, 2013 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Caitlin by: From Left 2 Write
I skimmed this book and think I actually read less than 50% of it, so maybe my review can't be "counted", but I did not enjoy the book at all (hence the skimming). I looooove cheese and learning about different kinds but this content was far too dry. Lots of history and what seemed to just be rehashing of facts. The only chapter I read the whole way through was the last chapter, during which the author attends a special dinner of a sort of "cheese society". This chapter was nicely balanced with ...more
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it
I received this book through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

Part history, part travelogue.......a salute to French cheese. A lot of research and travel was done to prepare for this book.

This book is a labor of love for the author.
Mar 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Off to the cheese shop!
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was ok
I wish this book was more about cheese and less about the author's love of Wisconsin, her husband, McDonald's, and describing people a la Dan Brown.
Jun 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
French cheese is one of those things that either gets a comment about its wonderful range, taste and diversity or a comment about it being "smelly and mouldy". This book might change those negative preconceptions and please culinary aficionados alike!

Billed as a mixture of travelogue and food history, this book is clearly a labour of love for the author, encouraged by her own original curiosity and passion for a subject that is far from being over-described. For example, no-one knows how many Fr
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This is my idea of a perfect nightstand book -- a well-written, geeky volume that doesn't hook me on plot, so I can read happily in the company of an intelligent mind until I'm drowsy enough to naturally fall asleep. Even better if the book transports me to Europe!

Although some of the descriptions of people, places, and cheese-making processes go on, in my opinion, 1-2 sentences too long, the language is lively and fresh.

There's a nifty little pronunciation guide at the end of the book (Fromage
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese, by Kathe Lison, is at once an adventure and a guide. Here’s the deal – she delves, quite deeply, into the mysteries of French cheesemaking – the geography, people, cows, terroir, traditions, regulations, appellations, differences, history – so well that you’ll read this book in one sitting (as I did), punctuated by a few trips to replenish the fromage plate. It’s that good.

Read our author interview: https://www.wanderingeduc
Jul 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
I simply could not finish this one. You immediately notice the vast research and travel signal this was the author's labor of love. However, the book was flat and the narration was meandering at best. I really wanted to love this one, but, alas........
Emily Bragg
May 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
Annoyingly disorganized, enjoyed the descriptions of the food and places for sheer nostalgia value. Author might have found a thesaurus and started adding adjectives for the hell of it, far beyond the point where each additional adj in a sentence was not adding anything other than word count.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Not bad, I really wish it had pictures of the people and places she describes and especially the cheeses!
Jun 08, 2013 rated it did not like it
Took it back to the library after four chapters. Could handle no more. Just didn't swing with the gushing, fanboy/girl style of the author.
Christine Antonelli
Sep 12, 2013 rated it liked it
There's a lot of interesting information in here. However the narration was really unorganized and at times just awkward.
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent detailed book on cheese.
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
This book is a much a travelogue as about cheese. I loved both the traveling and the cheese history.
Originally posted at Olduvai Reads

“In the States, the neo-hippie, neo-agrarian movement has made it rather fashionable to quit a high-paying job in the city, buy some herd animals, and start making fromage. Then, of course, you’re supposed to write a book about how going back to the land and making cheese has changed you by putting you back in touch with an ancient rhythm of life.”

I was thinking with my stomach and not my head when I requested this book from its publisher.

It was more “mmm…cheese
May 22, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed it because I am both a Francophile and a cheese enthusiast, and this book does delve into the history and the socio-economical issues around various kinds of french cheeses and how they came to be....

But I felt that in certain parts this book did get a little messy, and like some other readers I did find that the author’s descriptions were a little too lengthy and wordy.

That didn’t stop me from wanting to put the book down and stuff my face with a morsel of Beaufort cheese though...
Nicole Means
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I used to be of the belief that in my past life I was a cheesemonger. However, after reading “The Whole Fromage,” I realize how inaccurate my perception was. Although the terroir plays an extremely crucial role in the burst of flavor experienced when eating authentic cheeses, cheese-making is an act of love and each bite of cheese is infused with heart, soul, and passion. Sadly, so many cheeses we are offered in our grocery stores lack the burst of flavors that Lison enjoyed during her cheese ta ...more
Jul 11, 2013 rated it liked it
We all have to eat to live. Eating well is an art form and, for the French, a necessity. After all, France is the birthplace of some of the most recognizable foods and food traditions in the world. One of those time-honored gustatory categories is cheese. Kathe Lison’s The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese is an American’s take on French cheese – from basic history of the major French varieties to cheesemaking techniques to tastings to serendipitous encounters wi ...more
Jun 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
Would have been better as a blog. What's the story behind the French and their cheese? Author Kathe Lison sets out to find out the answer. She looks at the history and people who make/sell/deal with cheese including the regional differences, the methods used to make them, even the milk that goes into the cheese.
Unfortunately, it's a mess. The author's style is not particularly engaging and and was actually quite tedious. I wasn't really interested in her background nor her experiences with the
Jun 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013

The Whole Fromage by Kathe Lison

Imagine taking a trip around France to discover where true artisanal cheeses are still being made. Imagine seeing how they’re made and learning their histories and then being able to taste the cheeses you’ve discovered. Sounds like a dream doesn’t it? Well, this book is the dream come true, maybe not for you or me, but we are lucky enough to get to read about it.

The book is more about cheese than about France, so if you’re expecting a travel memoir you’ll be disap
I am a huge fan of French cheese. (Is it even possible not to be?) And I enjoyed hearing about some of the lesser-known cheeses, and the processes by which cheeses big and small are made. Lison writes accessibly, and certainly shows a willingness to muck in - or tuck in - to a variety of experiences. The biggest problem is that the book isn't really a travelogue, nor a food book, nor a more-academic book about cheeses and cheesemaking. It sits somewhat unsteadily on the intersection of the three ...more
Jun 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: cookbooks
I love cheese. It's a problem--for my doctor. I would happily exist on cheese and wine and bread. But I can't. But as much as I love cheese, this book was a lot for me. What it does well, very, very well is take you on a journey of how the brie you like got to where it is. Who the small producers are and did you know that the strains of mold that ripen your blue have had court cases? Sorry, I'm babbling, maybe this is what cheese does to you. So if you really like to know history of food and may ...more
Teri L.
Oct 28, 2013 rated it liked it
In general informative but incomplete. This was an interesting travelog of a few French cheese-making areas. Good information about how cheese is made and the changes in methods used to make cheese from the small farmhouse to today's big conglomerates and industrial producers. There was some discussion of taste, but I would have liked to see a discussion about the nutritional differences between raw and pasteurized cheeses, those with and without additives, etc. Raw milk proponents say that the ...more
Aug 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
There were some interesting stories and information about cheese that I appreciated learning. Overall it has the same problems that I have found numerous non-fiction books have had recently. The two biggest problems I have is the lack of organization, jumping here and there around France and to the next cheese without any transition or explanation. The second issue I had with the book was the negative descriptions of all the people she meets. Is there no way to describe people positively or with ...more
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, 2015
This book started off really slowly for me, and I wasn't initially a fan. While I agree with others that the narration can be meandering at times, it was still an absolutely fascinating read. If you read nothing else, I would highly recommend reading the chapter about camembert. As someone married to a Frenchman and living in France, I knew all about raw milk cheeses, but the discussion therein illuminated me to things I wasn't even aware of.
Mar 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Don't read this one if you are trying to avoid cheese boards! I'll be using my new cheese knowledge on my next visit to Fromagination. More episodic than comprehensive, with humor throughout. The author's main point is that thoughtful technological advances are part of cheese progress, and allow traditions to survive. However, she does a good job of demonstrating this point, as opposed to heavy-handed lecturing.

Marjorie Elwood
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Food porn at its best, this reignited my interest in making cheese. I found myself salivating on a regular basis, as the author regaled us with the living history of various French cheeses. The only drawback was the occasional overuse of French, which might have been distracting to those who don't speak it.
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Kathe Lison coming to Tucson 8/30/13 1 3 Aug 08, 2013 10:37AM  
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Kathe Lison is the author of The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese. A native of Wisconsin, "America's Dairyland," she has a long-reaching history with cheese. Her maternal grandfather kept and milked a herd of Holsteins on a 60-acre farm north of Green Bay, and her great, great-grandfather owned a diary. Beyond her Cheesehead lineage, she holds an M.A. in literatur ...more