“Is it about cheese if it is cheese?”

If you’ve been reading Lori Notes for a while, you know that many of my posts can be sorted into categories: things to listen to, quotes, art posts, language posts, etc. Quite a few could fit into a category called, “weird stuff I’ve discovered.” It turns out, I’ve begun to collect several entries that could be their own subcategory, “weird stuff I’ve discovered that involves cheese.”

I don’t think I’ll plan to make cheese weirdness part of a regular rotation, but I will call your attention to a book in the collection of the library at the University of Michigan.



That’s right, each page of this book is a wrapped slice of “pasteurized processed American cheese product” (per the FDA). I gather that it can’t legally be called cheese.

The University of Michigan Librarian for Art and Design who acquired the book, Jamie Lausch Vander Broek, wrote an article in Saveur describing the library’s purchase (20 Slices, by Ben Denzer, Catalog Press; 2018, $200). He noted that many people were angry about his acquisition of the book. His response was this:

“All of this gave me a deep sense of satisfaction. If my job is to engender interest and even passion for the library and its collections, a book made of cheese was really getting people excited. Suddenly they had opinions! Even among my coworkers there were arguments about things we take for granted in other books. Is someone the author of the cheese book? What is its subject? Is it about cheese if it is cheese?”



The subtitle of the Saveur article, dated October 4, 2018, is “Cheese lovers, this book is for you.” What I learn from this is that whoever was in charge of writing the subtitle has a limited understanding of cheese or cheese lovers, or perhaps both. There is likely to be an inverse relationship between a person’s love for fine cheese and that person’s ability to tolerate proximity to a slice of “pasteurized processed American cheese product.”

A more accurate subtitle would probably be, “People who’ve never tasted a truly fine cheese, this book is made of what mechanized food production conglomerates would like you to believe is cheese.” The word count would be too high, though, or someone with ties to Big Cheese-Food-Product would hear of it and shut them down. It would have gotten the axe either way.

If you’re interested in acquiring a copy of 20 Slices for your own library, you can contact the publisher. The printing, if that’s what it can be called, was limited to ten copies. The cheese product is shelf-stable, but the book itself might not have stayed on the shelf for long. While there, you can learn about other books they’ve published, including $200 in Order, a series of 200 one-dollar bills placed in order by serial number. I regret to inform you that 5 Ketchups has sold out.



If you’re ready for another post in the cheese weirdness subcategory (with original artwork), you can find one here.


[Images: Emily Buckler x 2, catalogpress.org]


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