The Telling Room

A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese
age: adult
First sentence: “This particular story begins in the dusky hollows of 1991, remembered a rotten year through and through by almost everybody living, dead, or unborn.”
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This tale — and it is, in many, many ways a “Tale” — begins in my hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan, with a University of Michigan masters writing student. He needed a job, so he picks up one as a copyeditor for the Zingerman’s Deli newsletter. There he is introduced to Ambrosio Molinos and the Páramo de Guzmán.

And he — the author — is enthralled. Ambrosio is larger than life. Guzmán is charming. So much so that Paterniti moves his family there for a year. And the cheese… well… by the time Paterniti gets to Spain, the cheese doesn’t exist anymore. See: Ambrosio had a good thing going. He dreamt of, and made by all accounts, a brilliant sheep cheese. It won awards. It got the attention of the king, of international buyers. But. Things went south. Ambrosio said it was his best friend, the lawyer Julián who betrayed him. He sold the business out from under Ambrosio, leaving him destitute.

Except, while that makes a good Story, the truth is so much more complicated than that.

One of the things that made this story so fascinating for me was that Paterniti was so caught up in it all. This book took 10 years for him to write, mostly because he didn’t want to believe Ambrosio’s story could be wrong. He wanted to believe that Ambrosio was a Real Thing, that his ideal of Rural and Simple could work. And it took a long time for him to be able to step away from it and see the big picture. But, as he writes about Abrosio, Guzmán, and his own personal journey, you can’t help but get caught up in it all as well. It’s a layered story, with many diversions (my only real complaint is that the footnotes would sometimes get in the way of the story), side roads, and interesting people along the way. It’s a great story.

And a great book.

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