The above is a line from Monty Python’s famous cheese-shop sketch, an all-time favorite of mine (and, come to think of it, an early trigger mechanism in my developing an abiding interest in food). I think of this sketch every time I step into New York’s best cheese shop, Murray’s Cheese, which happens to be in my neighborhood, Greenwich Village. Unlike John Cleese, who plays the customer, I’ve never gone cheese-shopping after getting peckish whilst reading Rogue Herries by the English novelist Hugh Walpole (I’ve never read Walpole, period), and unlike Michael Palin, who plays the cheesemonger, the man who runs Murray’s, Rob Kaufelt, stocks just about every cheese you can dream of–including Caerphilly, which is a semisoft Welsh cow’s-milk cheese.
I’m happy to report that Rob has just come out with an excellent little guidebook, entitled simply The Murray’s Cheese Handbook. It’s a compact, Zagat’s-size paperback that fits easily on a kitchen shelf. Rob is an enthusiast but not a snob; his book gently demystifies the vast array of imported runnies and indigenous artisanals now on bountiful display in this country’s better food markets.
It’s a complete fluke, but Rob and I also happened to grow up on the same block in Highland Park, New Jersey. We never knew each other until I met him while researching The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation. Rob, being a bit older, was off at college being an agitational hippie while I was toddling on the kitchen floor, banging a wooden spoon on an overturned pot as my mother cooked dinner and played the White Album. But I’m pleased to know Rob now, and to prove with him that not all guys from Central Jersey have center-parted hair and mustaches.