Michael Paterniti brings us a hugely enjoyable tale; a story of a family quest to recreate a lost recipe, and a twenty year grudge.
We head to a dusty village in the heart of Spain; to Ambrosio’s cave. And we hear, in The Telling Room, of the cheese that was sought out by epicureans the world over.
Paterniti first hears of this delicacy when editing newsletters for a flamboyant American deli owner; a man who travelled in search of the finest produce. In time he found the cheese-maker and in time he took his family to live in the village.
Stories emerged, the rise and the fall. It takes a specific breed of sheep, grazed on specific herbal pastures, milked by hand, matured in a cave. Ambrosio, eventually produces his perfect cheese, sealed in tins with olive oil.
But it turns sour, the tale not the cheese, and he makes a living as a truck driver, beggared and broke, ostracised. Paterniti returns again and again, to hear tales in the cave, drink the wine of the harvest, and so builds the tale he tells to us.
It’s a book of a story-teller by a story-teller, the writing as it is about the cheese. It’s about people and place and characters hewn from the soil. It’s about a village emerging from Franco’s war; a village where the tractor came late and traditions lived on.
And it’s a story that has you looking for Guzman on the map, and wondering what next Michael Paterniti may have in store. I’d love to tell you more, but that might spoil the fun. Read it and enjoy.