Kathe Lison is from Wisconsin USA, a state which produces 600 varieties of cheese and other dairy products! You might say that Kathe was born into the dairy of America but she has been fascinated by the cheeses of France since she visited Paris and bought a book at Charles de Gaulle Airport about cheese!
Kathe is the sort of writer who likes to dig deep and get gritty with her subject matter and her brilliant book “The Whole Fromage” is a tale of a woman’s obsession to find real cheese, meet real cheese makers and even the shepherds who look after the flocks that produce the milk to make the cheese of France!
This French bookworm (also a bit of a cheesehead) wanted to know more about the cheesetastic Kathe Lison…
I started writing because…
My brain works that way. Things just start writing themselves in my head, and then I have to get it down, especially if I ever want to sleep!
I work best…
When there’s a large platter of cheese at my elbow.
If I wasn’t a writer I would be…
An architect! In fact, I’m currently working on a Master’s degree in architecture. Not sure what I’ll do once I have it, but so far it’s made for fascinating study material.
If you could have dinner with a French celebrity/historic character – living or dead, who would it be?
Hmm. That’s a tough one. But I guess I’d have to say Marguerite Duras (author). Such a larger-than-life personality.
Another tough one, given that Duras spent her early years in Vietnam, where there likely wasn’t much cheese. I’d probably stick to goat cheese—maybe a nice Valençay, which would probably appeal to her sense of grandeur, given its Napoleonic connections. [Ed’s note: as Kathe Lison explains in her book there is a legend that Napoleon lopped the top of this cheese off with his sword when in a bad mood!]
Is it possible for you to say what your favourite French cheese is? Are there any French cheeses you don’t like?
I’m a huge sucker for a really good, well-aged, high-Alpine Beaufort, especially one replete with tyrosine clusters—just like cheese candy! But it’s true that I’ll eat pretty much any French cheese that someone sticks under my nose.
Desert Island book – if you could only take three books to a deserted island what would they be?
All I would need to take is the DK Guide to French Cheese. I could probably stay nourished on the pictures alone.
I am kept awake at night by…
Visions of my next trip to Paris. It may be awhile, given that I don’t have any more books about France in the works.
My guiltiest pleasure is…
Raclette. I have a raclette machine, and I look for any excuse to drag it from the cupboard. The only drawback of this is that I currently live in the desert, and it can be hard to convince friends to eat melted cheese in 100+ degree weather. They have to be very special people.
Red or white wine?
The French, of course, have all sorts of rules about pairings. I’m much more of an “if you like it, go for it” sort. Our palates are so different that it becomes sort of silly to make generalizations.
If I could go back in time I would…
Go to the Alps and watch them make gruyère with the old wooden milk buckets and copper kettles. I got as close as you could get to that sort of making in my High on a Hill chapter in The Whole Fromage, but it would be very cool to what it was really like way, way back in the day!