Tarentaise. Constant Bliss. Wabash Cannonball. If these names aren’t familiar right now, they may soon be. Jeffrey Roberts’ new book, Atlas of American Artisan Cheese, is the key to unlocking the mystery of these and hundreds more American artisan cheeses. All over the country otherwise reasonable people have been seized with the notion that it might be fun to make cheese. This impressive new book is at once a bible, catalog and record of this movement, which has blossomed into an artisan cheese renaissance in the United States.
The Atlas profiles nearly 350 makers of cheese from almost every state, with most entries providing photos of farms and cheese along with contact and visitor information. One can only imagine the time and energy it took to compile this information - just pondering the scope of the task is exhausting! Artisan cheesemakers are something of a moving target, with small operations appearing, morphing and evolving all the time; several additional cheesemakers in the Northwest, for example, have emerged even since Roberts compiled his information. The continued growth of this emerging and dynamic industry only underscores the importance of this book.
What I really like about Atlas of American Artisan Cheese is the way it conveys not just facts or information but snapshots of the stories behind the cheese. For some, cheesemaking is the realization of a lifelong dream, for others it started as a retirement project. Dairy economics and the preservation of the family farm are also repeated themes. So in the end you'll find that this book is not just a list of cheese made in the United States, but also a cultural and historical record of a food movement. Cheese is both food and a story, a tangible record of a place and the people that made it.
Really, cheese names aren’t mysteries - they’re just flavors and stories you’ve yet to discover. Atlas of American Artisan Cheese is your passport and tour guide on that very pleasurable journey.
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Atlas of American Artisan Cheese by Jeffrey P. Roberts with forewords by Carlo Petrini and Alison Hooper Chelsea Green Publishing Co. paperback 400 pages $35
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