The Value of Cheese and Friendship   Leave a comment

It’s interesting that I’ve recently read two nonfiction books that both include the word betrayal in their subtitles. After all, it’s a powerful assertion.  Michael Paterniti shares his in The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese. Initially the last word, the cheese, is what caught my attention more than the previous three. Those are experiences most of us know on some level, but the best cheese in the world? That’s something outside my realm.

Paterniti tells three stories: that of Ambrosio Molinos, a Spanish farmer turned cheesemaker; of life in rural Spain; and of the author’s own infatuation with the subject of his book, which isn’t the cheese at all, but the man behind it. Although Paterniti’s self-revelations are the least interesting, they’re fun to ride along with since he does such a magnificent job of bringing the larger-than-grand Ambrosio to life off the pages. It’s easy to see how he became so enmeshed in Ambroiso’s world, which is described in rich and vivid detail.

A combination of greed, poor business decisions and, ultimately, different versions of the same story result in Ambrosio’s fall from grace as a gentleman farmer to a man plagued with debt who is no longer able to produce the cheese that garnered worldwide attention.

The Telling Room could easily have been subtitled the power of friendship. It is power that comes from the beauty of reliance, fun and sharing to the more destructive and sad aspects that emerge when friendships fail.

The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese
Four Bookmarks
The Dial Press, 2013
349 pages


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