Salt was about salt, but it was really about world history. The Orchid Thief was about orchids, but it was really about obsession. The Telling Room is about cheese, but it’s really about storytelling.
Still, journalist Michael Paterniti wasn’t expecting fairy tales when he first set out for Guzmán, a picture-perfect village in the mountains of Spain, where a Castilian farmer once made what has been called the world’s best cheese. Paterniti’s only goal was to meet the aptly named cheesemaker Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras.
But he hadn’t counted on the “telling room,” a small, fire-lit space above the village caves where generations have gathered to eat, drink wine and tell stories. And he certainly hadn’t counted on Ambrosio’s tale, which was full of so much romance, soured friendship, revenge and even murder, that it proved more enticing than the queso in question.
Paterniti isn’t a bad storyteller himself, aside from a bothersome footnote habit. Armed with an MFA from the University of Michigan (where he first discovered Ambrosio’s cheese at the legendary Zingerman’s deli), he moved his young family to the village and let himself get swept up in generations of drama.
The resulting book is part travelogue, part mystery and part mouthwatering ode to a very special food. We dare you to read it without a box of crackers.