‘This could be a great book’ – The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti

ttrmpThis could be a great book. It has everything in it as the title says. Plus amazing cheese. It’s one man’s hunt for the greatest cheese in the world, sampled once in a deli in New York. The cheese becomes Paterniti’s whale as he attempts to hunt down the maker of this fantastic product, only to come up against brick walls at every turn. Finally, enlisting the help of a Spanish-speaking friend, they manage to track down the man responsible for the best cheese in the world (allegedly).

By this point I had to put the book down for a bit. Paterniti is a writer by profession but articles and the story leads us all over the place, lots of tangents, interesting information but not necessarily relevant to the main story. There are also hundreds of footnotes which are distracting, especially the larger ones that dominate a page. And there are footnotes on every page. At least one.

After a couple of weeks I went back to the book to wrestle with the story some more. Paterniti and his friend go to Spain and find the cheesemaker, Ambrosios, who sounds mad as a box of hatters. A man obsessed with making the perfect cheese who spent years perfecting the recipe until he nailed it.

Understanding the process was fascinating, how the cheese was made and ripened in a cave said to have powers. Then the cheese took off, the production changed from a family on a farm to mass scale.

Over ten years, Paterniti went back and forth to the little village to spend time with Ambrosio and we can see how attached he is the place.

The main problem with this story is the author inserting himself in it. I can see why he did it, this story was a long time in the making, nearly twenty years, but it would have been better without him. Stick to Ambrosio’s story. It’s not an easy read at all, the narrator rambles on a lot, provides far too much information about Spain itself and loses his way more than once.

Any Cop?: There is a story in there, but it needs to be teased out.

Claire Snook


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