The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America by Heather Paxson

By Heather Paxson

Cheese is alive, and alive with that means. Heather Paxson's fantastically written anthropological research of yankee artisanal cheesemaking tells the tale of ways craftwork has develop into a brand new resource of cultural and monetary worth for manufacturers in addition to shoppers. Dairy farmers and artisans inhabit an international during which their colleagues and collaborators are a wild solid of characters, together with crops, animals, microorganisms, relatives, staff, and consumers. As "unfinished" commodities, dwelling items whose characteristics aren't totally settled, hand-crafted cheeses embrace a mixture of new and previous rules approximately style and cost. by means of exploring the lifetime of cheese, Paxson is helping reconsider the politics of meals, land, and hard work at the present time.

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Extra resources for The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America (California Studies in Food and Culture)

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3. The Patch Farm barn. The stairs at left lead to the bunkhouse. The pickup truck is backed up to the entrance to the milking parlor, preparing to transport milk cans to the cheese house on Major Farm. Photo by author. In the milking parlor I found Lucy, the Majors’ summer intern and a recent Smith College graduate, with whom I was to share the adjacent spare but comfortably furnished two-bedroom bunkhouse. I followed Lucy to the pasture behind the barn to collect the sheep for milking. The herding border collies, Chet and Casey, were with us, ready to do their job.

But while heightened interest in sophisticated European cheeses may have helped open a market for domestic varieties, it also raised the bar. Another retailer suggested to me that increased sophistication might have made consumers “more suspicious” of American cheeses, not more curious about them. The American artisanal cheese industry has taken off amid increasing pressure to be good in another way—to produce high-quality cheese consistently. Reinforced by the growth of farmers’ markets and food-themed television programming, consumers are expressing an interest in learning about where their food comes from and how it is produced.

61 As food producers reconfigure their personal values, they are also brokering changes in the land and landscape. One Vermont dairying family I met transitioned to organic production as an economic strategy but then came to believe in an organic ethic of care for their cows, whose veterinary bills declined after being fed pasture grasses. 62 Rural in-migrants may pride themselves on keeping land in agricultural use and buying hay or milk from their neighbors at fair prices, but when they invest urban-earned money in rural communities they may also contribute to rising rural property taxes and the displacement of long-term residents.

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