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Tuesday, August 4

The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti or cheese my way

A story is time itself, boxed and compressed. It is the briefest entertainment and simulacrum of real life, which is big and messy and requires a strange kind of endurance. The story is stylized for that flash of laughter and pain, thwarted desire and odd consummation, while life waterfalls with it - all of it- every day: prodigious, cloying, in decay. And when the story is finally over - even if the protagonist survives a spray of gunfire and goes on living - it's over. Meanwhile, life carries on, river-swift. 

I did some reading, took a test, read some more, asked a professional and it was crystal clear: I have an addictive personality. I shelter my own reward system at the back of my mind. I attach myself to the receptors in my mind where chocolate, for instance, fits like a golden key to the right lock. I used to be a slave to the mighty god of chocolate for years. Always imagined him to be a brown, chocolaty chubby version of Buddha, always ready to gulp some more and save nothing. Once I had three tablets in one day- Lindt was my religion, dopamine my favorite attire. I might be done with it now or simply taking a break. I may be growing out of this addiction into another or simply in the middle of a readjustment period. Either way, I can still appreciate the addiction in some readings, people, or state of minds. The Telling Room reminded me of my dependence on such things as well-flown words, simple, yet intense stories, food at large and as the binder between ancestral energies and the untamed side of us, people. Some books see through you for the weakness there is inside and then you instantly click at the way you mirror back at them.

Part travelogue, part meditation on the meaning of life, The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese is a journey into the realm of the senses. If you are a foodie or a cheese-monger, make sure you have a plate to nibble on, close to you, so as to deepen the experience. You are bound to take a pause from the munching every now and then to occasionally sigh, frown, melt, dramatize, marvel at. Should you find yourself awkward and restraint, unwilling to exercise all addictive demons, indulge into the feast. This is a book that promises to make you fall for Spain, history, reconnecting with the traditions, simple life and the sacred relation between our food and our bodies. Cheese made with love, recapturing family history, conquers all traveling hearts and bears undying stories. Everything that comes from passion is meant to be immortal, transcending hearts, geography, and roofs of mouths. You are bound to taste the Paramo de Guzman cheese as if it were next to you, in your own bodega, spinning its tale in the telling room of told and untold trials to reach perfection in a bite. It will leave its trace in your mouth as the plot thickens and you will get a glimpse not only at the living clips of the writer who crossed the world because he wanted to believe, but also into a land that breathes history and beauty.

To me, this book speaks of addiction. The way you can grow on a dream and never let it go, regardless of place, time or nature. The simpler the life you lead, the more chance the feeling is inlaid into you, running the veins like the worst of drugs. Alfonso, the cheese maker, has a dream- to show respect to values, tradition and his way of life. He makes cheese to celebrate his father and to help people grasp the meaning of a rustic, unadorned, unpretentious existence. This books sings life in its simplicity. 

Even for a city boy, may he be a writer, father, husband and Italian proud bearer of his elders' name - Paterniti, the making of dreams knows no boundary or religion, no size, color, or logic. Ambrosio's cheese is soulful because his heart is poured into the making of such queso that swept the world off its feet. Food tells a story, his cheese speaks of his family. Technology constantly kills the dream by processing the love. It raises a wall between the eater and its food. No such sin should come out of a creator's hands. Yet, Ambrosio falls for the trick in the name of love and friendship and technology equals betrayal. In the bigger picture, technology with all its gadgets, keeps us distanced from the authenticity of life. Modern man has forgotten how to take a dump properly and it shows. Ambrosio knows. It takes art and practice.

Image result for the telling room book

Addiction also lies in the way the writer becomes mesmerized with a cheese he has never tasted, yet felt drawn to, in a magical way. Layers and layers of narrative pour into the story and the reader becomes actively tangled into this tale of love and treachery in the name of food. The reader is free to take sides and decide what fills his heart. Lessons of friendship, wine, food, silent fields of sunflowers, ruins into the heart and against a blue patch of sky, all bustle into the story and resonate into the reader. Are you accumulating every word into the heart, mind, senses? Are you starting to grow a craving for the mighty cheese, to meet its maker, to walk its lands and share some wine in his telling room? If you do, you are addictive by nature. To beautiful things and to something larger than life that flows through your veins, food memories merely an excuse to give in. To cheese mainly.

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