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Originally published Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 5:02 AM

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‘It’s Not You, It’s Brie:’ Blessed are the cheesemakers

Kirsten Jackson’s new book “It’s Not You, It’s Brie” unwraps America’s cheese culture with economy, wit and precision.

The Washington Post

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“It’s Not You, It’s Brie: Unwrapping America’s Unique Culture of Cheese”

by Kirstin Jackson

Perigee, 224 pp., $19

Certain corners of the food world accumulate cranky high priests and priestesses, full of solemn proclamations and self-serious warnings about the correct way to make, buy or describe the things we love. Start a conversation about wine or coffee with the wrong person and get ready for a lecture packed with pseudoscience, judgmental snobbery and personal observations passed off as industry gospel.

Cheese fanatics can be as bad as any other kind, and many a tedious tome has exacerbated the situation. And then there are books like “It’s Not You, It’s Brie,” by Kirstin Jackson. It elegantly wedges through the tedious jargon and pomp of cheese culture.

Jackson leads the reader into the live culture of American cheese in a manner so painless as to be pleasurable. Her approach is to quickly and clearly define a broad type of cheese, such as Alpine or Pasta Filata, and then illuminate three specific cheeses within that class. She shares cheesemaker biographies, farm descriptions, animal stories, pairings, tasting notes and recipes.

From Jackson, we learn about showboat superstars such as Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Dodgeville, Wis., and cheeses hailing from unexpected states such as Texas and New Jersey. The information is delivered with wit, economy and precision, and the author never falls back on lazy generalizations.

Necessarily, “It’s Not You” has some holes. Jackson’s approach leaves many worthy cheeses and cheesemakers unexamined.But that’s not Jackson’s shortcoming; it’s a failure of the publishing world. Perhaps some benevolent cheese baron will bankroll Jackson to undertake an encyclopedic exploration of the hundreds of other worthy artisanal cheeses that dot the contemporary American landscape.

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