Pierre Boisard seeks to show how, over the past 150 years or so, the cheese has been ruined: industrialised, homogenised, delocalised and, finally, pasteurised – and all without the assistance of American multinational corporations. It’s almost wholly an indigenous French story: the Camembert producers made it into the national cheese – the most popular and best-selling of any cheese in France – and then into an internationally recognised and traded commodity. Camembert is a gripping read, and if it winds up using cheese as a perspicuous site for understanding the making of modernity, well, there are lots of other cheese books which really are just about cheese.
So it seems the French weren’t such cheese-eating surrender monkeys after all. Cheese-eating, yes; but they practised modern methods of globalization and began conquering the commercial world long before Coca-Cola or McDonald’s.