New in cheese porn | Bleader

Monday, June 11, 2007

New in cheese porn

Posted By on 06.11.07 at 07:20 PM

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It's a red-letter day in the Reader mailroom: we just got our copy of the new Atlas of American Artisan Cheese. While it may not exactly be a narrative page-turner, this exhaustive compendium stands to be the definitive reference guide to American artisanal cheesemakers and their products--and, as Marian Burros pointed out last week in the New York Times, it may be in the vanguard of a new model of travel writing to boot.

The author, Jeffrey Roberts, is a founder of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese at the University of Vermont and a national director for Slow Food U.S.A. (The atlas features a brief, peppy foreword by Carlo Petrini, who reiterates just how much he thinks raw milk rules.) His research sounds grueling--visiting farms and dairies and eating cheese from California to Maine. (File under: tough job but somebody's got to do it.) In the end he catalogs 345 cheesemakers, categorized by region. Each gets a little biographical profile; a bullet-pointed sidebar itemizing the who, what, and where; and tasting notes. Plus, sometimes, he suggests wine and beer pairings. The book's also liberally sprinkled with sun-kissed color photos of happy, ruddy cheese makers, placid sheep, and some bouncy-looking goats.

Regional celebs like Anne Topham (Fantome Farm) and Willi Lehner (Bleu Mont Dairy) get the nod, as does Prairie Fruits Farm, site of a recent Food Chain field trip. But Jeanne Carpenter at the Cheese Underground wonders why only 22 Wisconsin cheese makers make the cut--the Wisconsin Dairy Artisan Network site lists currently lists 61 and the number appears to be growing all the time. And she brings up a good point: booming interest in artisanal products can only lead to booming production. When does an artisan become an assembly line--and is that categorically a bad thing?

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