The life of cheese (a book recommendation)

Some books, like some cheeses, get better with time. This is the case of Professor Heather Paxson’s “The Life of Cheese.” Based on the author’s fieldwork research, the book tells the story of artisan cheese producers in the northeast of the United States. Perhaps one of the most important contributions this ethnography makes is to introduce the concept of post-Pasteurian attitudes of producers and consumers. Paxson writes: “a post-Pasteurian view emphasizes the potential cooperation among agencies of nature and culture, microbes and humans. … post-Pasteurian investments in quality accept some degree of variability in embracing the potential of a raw-milk cheese to express exceptional, distinctive flavors.” 

It is this same ethos that forms the basis of the mission of the Oldways Cheese Coalition. Diversity in microbial, producer, or international communities is essential to the development of complex modern ecosystems and societies. Recognizing different actors and encouraging new understandings is central to our work. We base our efforts on fact-based peer reviewed science, and remain attentive to established techniques used by generations of cheesemakers. As a new U.S. administration is inaugurated, our guiding principle remains the careful balance between promoting of artisanal products and the protecting traditional cheesemaking practices. We will be here to ensure that artisanal cheeses and their cheesemakers thrive. 

Professor Paxson is a member of our Academic Advisory Committee and recently, Scientific American published a review of her book. 

Carlos Yescas - Program Director