Cheese appreciation can sometimes take on a cultish tinge, but the fact is cheese is among the oldest and most elementary foods, made everywhere in the world where the milk of one mammalian species or another has been processed to produce a staggering variety of flavors and textures. There is evidence of cheesemaking more than 7000 years ago, and by Roman times it had already become a major food product, adopted rapidly in the British Isles. Cheddar is recorded as early as 1100 CE, and regional varieties, produced by diverse climates, fodder sources, and cultural preferences, appeared by the Middle Ages.
With forty to fifty major varieties now recognized, along with hundreds of individual cheese products, a good general introduction to the world of British cheeses had been needed. Although there were rarified buying guides, not much was available to orient beginners to the basics or the vocabulary of the basics.
So in 1989 British Country Cheeses by food writer Pamela Westland was quite welcome. Written to serve as a starting point, this handsome illustrated book treats general issues in cheesemaking and then turns to useful introductory chapters on the cheeses of the south and southwest, the Midlands and East Anglia, Northern England, and the cheeses of Scotland.
These are mainly cheeses from bovine sources, but a separate chapter also touches on some sheep and goat milk varieties. Included are basic recipes for home cheesemaking, but probably more advanced instruction would be required for most readers who are not already familiar with the processes. Helpful to those living in the UK are extensive lists of cheesemakers throughout the Isles.
An attractive book and a good first foot in a field that can be daunting, this might be a nice gift for a beginner. To be sure, they will not come away from it as experts, but they will, at least, know the difference between a Wensleydale and a Double Gloucester
Our copy is in Very Good condition, though long-shelving has taken its toll on the jacket, leaving it scuffed with a few closed tears. It has been placed in a mylar sleeve to prevent further damage.