Scent and Sensibility

Gordon Edgar’s memoir Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge is essential reading for city eaters. First, it details the goings-on at Rainbow Grocery, a place that reveals strange wonders upon every visit, from the unwashed man buying a king's ransom in organic fruit to the frenzied crowds on the Yellow Pages coupon days (check your phone book!). Second: It’s written by a punk rock cheese expert with a don’t-bullshit-the-public ethos. In 1994, Edgar bluffed his way into a job at the store’s cheese section, but it was no matter, because back then the cheese section at Rainbow was on par with the cheese section at Walgreens. Edgar changed that. He listened to the customers. He went to conferences and farms and read books and bought cheese. Most importantly, he ate cheese. Today, Rainbow has the sort of spread that scares the hell out of the timid, who gaze upon the funny looking rind-shapes, like totems of a strange religion, and lunge for a workhorse brie. But you should trust this man, especially when he points to some of the more fuzzy, aromatic varietals, which seem like they should be treated with antibiotics or used as a poultice rather than eaten. (But don’t gesture to the Le Farto French Reblochon and make a joke about cutting it -- you’ll leave in tears.) His book combines healthy chunks of cheese lore, cheese science, and cheese love with lots of straight talk about sales reps, local farms, sustainable food, cattle grazing, and all that. And there’s plenty of that punk rock/collective grocery store philosophy, which remains fully realized thanks to people like our local cheesemonger.
Sat., March 13, 7 p.m., 2010

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