The Telling Room

The Telling Room

A Story of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese

Book - 2013
Average Rating:
Rate this:
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR * Entertainment Weekly * Kirkus Reviews * The Christian Science Monitor

In the picturesque village of Guzmán, Spain, in a cave dug into a hillside on the edge of town, an ancient door leads to a cramped limestone chamber known as "the telling room." Containing nothing but a wooden table and two benches, this is where villagers have gathered for centuries to share their stories and secrets--usually accompanied by copious amounts of wine.

It was here, in the summer of 2000, that Michael Paterniti found himself listening to a larger-than-life Spanish cheesemaker named Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras as he spun an odd and compelling tale about a piece of cheese. An unusual piece of cheese. Made from an old family recipe, Ambrosio's cheese was reputed to be among the finest in the world, and was said to hold mystical qualities. Eating it, some claimed, conjured long-lost memories. But then, Ambrosio said, things had gone horribly wrong. . . .

By the time the two men exited the telling room that evening, Paterniti was hooked. Soon he was fully embroiled in village life, relocating his young family to Guzmán in order to chase the truth about this cheese and explore the fairy tale-like place where the villagers conversed with farm animals, lived by an ancient Castilian code of honor, and made their wine and food by hand, from the grapes growing on a nearby hill and the flocks of sheep floating over the Meseta.

What Paterniti ultimately discovers there in the highlands of Castile is nothing like the idyllic slow-food fable he first imagined. Instead, he's sucked into the heart of an unfolding mystery, a blood feud that includes accusations of betrayal and theft, death threats, and a murder plot. As the village begins to spill its long-held secrets, Paterniti finds himself implicated in the very story he is writing.

Equal parts mystery and memoir, travelogue and history, The Telling Room is an astonishing work of literary nonfiction by one of our most accomplished storytellers. A moving exploration of happiness, friendship, and betrayal, The Telling Room introduces us to Ambrosio Molinos de las Heras, an unforgettable real-life literary hero, while also holding a mirror up to the world, fully alive to the power of stories that define and sustain us.

Praise for The Telling Room

"Captivating . . . Paterniti's writing sings, whether he's talking about how food activates memory, or the joys of watching his children grow." --NPR
Publisher: New York : Dial Press, 2013
Edition: First Edition
ISBN: 9780385337014
Characteristics: xii, 349 pages ; 25 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
May 03, 2018

From Di - for Don

May 12, 2014

Fun read, although it ended up being more about the author than the cheesemaker.

Mar 26, 2014

About halfway through the book, the creator of the cheese of the subtitle wonders who he is if he is not making his cheese, if he has an identity if he is not creating his masterwork. It struck me that this book should be on the shelf of everyone in the Innovation Lab, all those makers and hackers who love creating and have fully found themselves in the maker movement.

ChiPubLib_Adults Mar 05, 2014

While working at the renowned Zingerman's deli in Ann Arbor, MI back in the early 90s, author Paterniti came across a remarkable Spanish cheese. Years later he was inspired to track down its creator, and so he set off for Spain. There the cheese maker recounts a surprisingly moving story of joy, family betrayal and vengeance, and so began Paterniti's decade-long quest to gather the whole story. The book has plenty to say about history and tradition, with plenty of fascinating asides into such topics as Spanish folklore, the history of cheese and even the creation of Pringles. Foodies will certainly enjoy this excellent book, as well as fans of quirky nonfiction (and we know there are many of you).


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at MARINet

To Top