If I were stranded on a desert island, the food I would miss most is cheese. I love cheese, all types of cheese, Maytag Blue, Fromager d’Affinois, Petit Basque, Taleggio. My affinity knows no national or state boundaries. I’ve passed this love onto my two-year-old who’s been known to sniff disdainfully, “No want deli cheese, want cheese cheese,” whereupon she’ll tuck happily into a wedge of St. Agur, a nice snack at $20/pound. Until recently, I thought I liked cheese more than anyone on the planet.
Joseph Corrigan and Joseph Feehan, better known as Corrie and Fee, make the finest Coolarney Blue cheese in the entire civilized world. But Corrie still pines for his long-lost granddaughter, whisked away from her Ireland home as a child by her gallivanting mother. At this very moment, in a primitive hut on a remote South Seas island, his twenty-nine-year-old granddaughter Abbey is getting ready to leave her irrigation-obsessed husband after discovering that he has gone biblical with several of the natives.
A continent away, Kit Stephens is struggling with the loss of his wife and his career as a high-flying Wall Street broker. What this lonely, hungover, and burned-out New Yorker needs is a miracle-fast. Where better to find one than in a distant corner of Ireland, on a dairy farm run by the unlikeliest pair ever to preside over a vat of unpasteurized curd?
As Abbey and Kit converge on Coolarney House in County Cork, they discover a marvelous kingdom where something wonderful is always fermenting…where pregnant, vegetarian dairymaids milk cows to “The Sound of Music”…and where a cat named Jesus realizes she just isn’t cut out for motherhood. While Corrie and Fee zealously guard the secret of the renowned Coolarney Blue and shelter an odd collection of whisky-soaked men and brokenhearted women, a tantalizing mystery surfaces from the aromatic depths of the factory. Soon Abbey and Kit will find out whether they have what it takes to become master cheesemakers. And something more. For in this magical place where wounds miraculously heal, falling in love is what makes us come truly alive.
A book to delight your heart, taste buds, and funny bone, Blessed are the Cheesemakers is an irresistible tale about taking life’s spilled milk and turning it into the best cheese in the world.
Blessed Are the Cheesemakers is a warm and sweet romantic novel set in County Cork Ireland in Coolarney House, where some of the world’s foremost farmhouse cheese is produced. It has been owned and operated for generations by two families, the Corrigans, who supply the cows for the milk and the Feehans, who supply the cheesemaking ability. The last two denizens of these families, both named Joseph, are getting up there in years and need someone, preferably family to take over the operations of the farmhouse. Their cheeses are known throughout the world, a fact that they chalk up to their consummate cheesemaking ability and good pastures for the cows. They also use a special “breed” of milkmaid. They only hire young women…who all happen to be pregnant…and vegetarians…and no joke, are able to sing songs from “The Sound of Music” for hours on end. Personally I think anyone who can make it through “The Lonely Goatherd” more than once in a lifetime is candidate for sainthood, let alone doing it surrounded by a herd of cows.
Fee, whose abilities not only lie in making cheese but also in wise prognostication, decides that Kit and Abbey will be the ones to carry on the cheesemaking tradition, a fact that most readers will figure out by about page 20. Nevertheless, it’s not an easy road for the twosome and Fee has to haul out his sweet smelling, horrid tasting “love cheese” to bewitch the two soon-to-be-besotted. Births, a death, and the opening up of family secrets are all bumps on the road to true love.
The story is predictable but sweet, and even a little spicy in some spots. Lynch has a warm spot for her characters, right down to the three farm cats who are named “Jesus,” “Mary,” and “All The Saints.” It’s really the characters’ story, the cheese as much as the people. As Fee says, when asked about a man’s state of mind, “In my experience there’s not a state in the world…that cannot be greatly improved by close proximity to cheese.” Amen and pass the Brie.
2/5 (Charity Pile)
PS: One thing I found charming was how, in the beginning, the cheese was personified as an angry female who was offended at being left in the fridge to rot.
The Princess Grace Memorial Blue sat on the table in front of Abbey, screaming to be eaten. Abbey, as always, was smiling her dreamy smile, her eyes half closed and her head slightly thrown back, as though she were preparing to blow out a candle and make a wish. Well, it was her twenty-ninth birthday, after all, and there would have been candles, too, had not the Princess Grace been a particularly fussy cheese, inclined to expel a pungent foul-smelling aroma if fiddled with in any fashion. Actually, this pernicketiness was what made her so special. She was made with fresh Coolarney milk hand-expressed at daybreak every April 19 and she was treated like royalty from the first tweak of the first teat to the last crumb on the last tongue. She insisted on it. She was that sort of a cheese.