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3.76  ·  Rating details ·  421 ratings  ·  104 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
Hardcover, 228 pages
Published July 2009 by MacAdam/Cage (first published April 1st 2009)
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Jul 19, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jay Hinman
Aug 12, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Nov 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
John Mcnamara
Feb 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Cheesemonger upended my expectations in a very good way. Going in, I was expecting some tale of the long path to a dream, where a childhood love of cheese led someone to culinary school and to becoming a master of dairy. But it turns out that it's the other kind of memoir, about how a strange left turn in life changes one's entire course and sets the tone of the future. Also, punk rock.

It's the punk attitude that really made me love this book. Edgar came to cheese by accident, first getting invo
Dec 11, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
Nov 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it
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
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
Hannah Givens
Aug 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Didn't think I was going to enjoy this one as much as I did, but this punk rock cheesemaker's story is surprisingly moreish, blending super in-depth cheese knowledge with tales from behind the counter, collectivist politics and musings on the gentrification of urban communities.

Basically this is a lot like Steve Almond's Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, but for cheese. Mildly disappointed that it's not called Cheesefreak.
May 17, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Sep 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
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 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, non-fiction
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.
Laurie Neighbors
Yeah, my boyfriend wrote this book. Yup.
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, foodie, kindle
I really enjoyed this. I started reading because of the promise of foodie lit and cheese geekery, but I think what I enjoyed the most was the confluence of a punk outlook and ethos with insights into the politics of food.

There's also an impressive discussion of the emotional labor of working in retail and the service industry in a community... the author works in a cooperative community store in a San Francisco neighborhood that's getting more gentrified. He made a point that absolutely shook m
Gordon Edgar is a punk cheesemonger who runs the cheese department at a worker-owned co-op grocery store (Rainbow Grocery Cooperative) in San Francisco. He didn’t have any particular expertise with cheese when he first started, but as he began growing the cheese section and attending conferences and workshops and meeting with cheese vendors, his knowledge increased and his cheese palate developed (as did those of his customers). In Cheesemonger Edgar shares some of the anecdotes, secrets, and pl ...more
I think I would have really loved each of the essays in this book on their own. As a collection it starts to be overly repetitive. I found Gordon's life and his values to be interesting, strong, delightful, and unusual -- I had never thought about what it would be like to work in a worker-owned co-op store. I enjoyed reading about the thoughtful path that led him there, and about his flowering from cheese enthusiasm to cheese expert. I liked his descriptions of the various cheeses and farmers. I ...more
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
A really interesting look into both the Cooperative Business world and the world of selling cheese. If your interested in either, I'd suggest this one.
Peter Derk
Jun 29, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Nicole Means
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Rogue Reader
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food-writing
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
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 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 10, 2011 added it
Shelves: 2011, couldnt-finish
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
Jul 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 07, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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 His book Cheesemonger was published in 2010 and Cheddar was publis ...more
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