I recently discovered a wonderful new book, The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese (Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 2007), by Jeffrey P. Roberts. Fresh-from-the-farm cheese is an epicurean's delight and Roberts' book provides a regional road map to local cheeses made in small batches. If you're lucky, you'll find sources of delicious, farm-fresh cheese just down the road from where you live.
In his foreward to the book, Carlo Petrini, president of Slow Food International, says that the new definition of food quality is that it should be 'good in terms of flavor, clean in terms of sustainability, and fair insofar as they gratify the people who make them.' He goes on to say that 'such three-faceted quality is actually the result of a single intention: the defense of seasonal, local, traditional artisan food products.' Artisan cheese is about a sense of place: the connection of food, land and people based on the farm's climate and geology, the choice of milk-giving animals and the culture of the cheese maker. It is also about the sustainability of the family farm and the value-added products that support it.
If you love cheese — from cheddar to chevre — if you enjoy road trips, and especially if you are thinking of becoming a cheese maker yourself, then let this book be your guide. Each regional entry tells where the milk comes from — whether cows, goats, sheep or water buffalo — the kind of cheese produced and where you can purchase the cheese (and find free samples).
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