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The Telling Room : A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese
by Michael Paterniti

Overview - "NEW YORK TIMES" BESTSELLER
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NPR - "Entertainment Weekly - Kirkus Reviews - The Christian Science Monitor"
In the picturesque village of Guzman, Spain, in a cave dug into a hillside on the edge of town, an ancient door leads to a cramped limestone chamber known as "the telling room." Containing nothing but a wooden table and two benches, this is where villagers have gathered for centuries to share their stories and secrets--usually accompanied by copious amounts of wine.
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More About The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti
 
 
 
Overview
"NEW YORK TIMES" BESTSELLER
NAME ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
NPR - "Entertainment Weekly - Kirkus Reviews - The Christian Science Monitor"
In the picturesque village of Guzman, Spain, in a cave dug into a hillside on the edge of town, an ancient door leads to a cramped limestone chamber known as "the telling room." Containing nothing but a wooden table and two benches, this is where villagers have gathered for centuries to share their stories and secrets--usually accompanied by copious amounts of wine.
It was here, in the summer of 2000, that Michael Paterniti found himself listening to a larger-than-life Spanish cheesemaker named Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras as he spun an odd and compelling tale about a piece of cheese. An unusual piece of cheese. Made from an old family recipe, Ambrosio's cheese was reputed to be among the finest in the world, and was said to hold mystical qualities. Eating it, some claimed, conjured long-lost memories. But then, Ambrosio said, things had gone horribly wrong. . . .
By the time the two men exited the telling room that evening, Paterniti was hooked. Soon he was fully embroiled in village life, relocating his young family to Guzman in order to chase the truth about this cheese and explore the fairy tale-like place where the villagers conversed with farm animals, lived by an ancient Castilian code of honor, and made their wine and food by hand, from the grapes growing on a nearby hill and the flocks of sheep floating over the Meseta.
What Paterniti ultimately discovers there in the highlands of Castile is nothing like the idyllic slow-food fable he first imagined. Instead, he's sucked into the heart of an unfolding mystery, a blood feud that includes accusations of betrayal and theft, death threats, and a murder plot. As the village begins to spill its long-held secrets, Paterniti finds himself implicated in the very story he is writing.
Equal parts mystery and memoir, travelogue and history, "The Telling Room "is an astonishing work of literary nonfiction by one of our most accomplished storytellers. A moving exploration of happiness, friendship, and betrayal, "The Telling Room" introduces us to Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras, an unforgettable real-life literary hero, while also holding a mirror up to the world, fully alive to the power of stories that define and sustain us.
Praise for "The Telling Room"
"Captivating . . . Paterniti's writing sings, whether he's talking about how food activates memory, or the joys of watching his children grow."--NPR
"A gorgeous and impassioned monument to the art and mystery of storytelling, "The Telling Room" is rich, funny, humane, devastating, and beautiful. It made me want to applaud, it made me want to cry, it made me want to move to Spain. Michael Paterniti is a genius."--Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love"
"Unforgettable . . . a must-read for all who think of Spain as magical, who consider cheese as the ultimate gift of love, who love stories of betrayal, despair, revenge and redemption.""--The Wall Street Journal"
""The Telling Room" embodies the spirit of slow food and life."--Michael Pollan
"Elegant, strange, funny, and insightful, "The Telling Room" is a marvelous tale and a joyful read, a trip into a world peopled by some of the most remarkable characters--and, yes, cheese--in memory."--Susan Orlean, author of "The Orchid Thief""
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Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780385337007
  • ISBN-10: 0385337000
  • Publisher: Random House Inc
  • Publish Date: July 2013
  • Page Count: 349


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Personal Memoirs
Books > Cooking > Regional & Ethnic - Spanish
Books > History > Social History

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-05-20
  • Reviewer: Staff

Working as a proofreader on the newsletter for his local deli, Paterniti stumbled upon the story of a sublime cheese, Páramo de Guzmán (named after the family village from which it originates), that the deli’s owner discovered by chance in London. Made from the fresh milk of Churra sheep, “the cheese was submerged, after its first aging, in extra-virgin olive oil and aged again, for at least a year.” Intrigued by the story, as well as by the craft and love that went into making the cheese, Paterniti sets off on a quest to find the creator of Páramo de Guzmán and to listen to his story. Over the course of a decade, Paterniti (Driving Mr. Albert) visits Ambrosio Molino’s contador, or telling room (a space in a handmade cave that in earlier times functioned as cold larders for individual families and villages), listening raptly as the cheese maker recounts a tale both joyous and sad, of discovery, betrayal, revenge, and restoration. Much as Molinos regales Paterniti with his rich voice, Paterniti entertains us by retelling this saga of a man who successfully recovers his family’s cheese recipe, whose childhood friend betrays him by stealing the business, and who half-heartedly seeks revenge for the betrayal. Yet, this is also Paterniti’s story: “Ambrosio gave me a brief glimpse of a different, compelling sort of life, a life in which there seemed to be more time for family and conversation, for stories and food.” So in 2012 Paterniti moved his family to Guzmán. Paterniti’s zestful storytelling carries us along on a delightful journey through a village rich with the traditions of food and family. Agent: Sloan Harris, ICM. (July)

 
BookPage Reviews

A cheesemaker's tall tale

According to Spanish legend, medieval knight Rodrigo Díaz, known as El Cid, was valiant, honorable and faithful, loyal even to the king who unjustly exiled him. The reality: Well, maybe not. Modern historians say El Cid really existed, but he was a much more mercenary and self-interested character than the hero immortalized in epic poetry, ballads and film.

What on earth does that have to do with a guy named Ambrosio Molinos, who made a really good artisan cheese in the Spanish village of Guzmán for a short time back in the late 20th century? More than you might think, as Michael Paterniti demonstrates in his lovely, rollicking new book, The Telling Room, an exploration of his decade-long attempt to write about Ambrosio and his cheese, Páramo de Guzmán.

Paterniti first heard of this great cheese when he was working for Zingerman’s, a gourmet deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Years later, when he was an established freelance writer with a young family, he sought out Ambrosio, who turned out to be a writer’s delight and a teller of innumerable folktales (among them El Cid’s legend). Ambrosio’s greatest story is his own: about how his best friend betrayed him and cheated him out of his cheese company in a bitter dispute. The “telling room” of the book’s title is the small room in the Molinos family’s storage cave (yes, cave) where Ambrosio, the Zorba of Guzmán, waxes poetic.

Infatuated with Ambrosio and Guzmán, Paterniti moved his family to the remote village, only to become blocked, unable to finish the book. Clearly, he worked his way through the dilemma, but only after overcoming his reluctance to check into Ambrosio’s story. It turns out—surprise!—Ambrosio, like El Cid, is perhaps not the perfect knight, any more than Guzmán, with its Franco-era secrets, is a fairy-tale village.

Paterniti writes with charm and verve, providing cultural context with discursive footnotes that mimic Ambrosio’s own circuitous style. He leads the reader down his own twisting path to a deeper understanding of why we need the Ambrosios of the world: They are the storytellers whose magic makes reality bearable.

 
BAM Customer Reviews

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