Reinventing the Wheel is our attempt to grapple with the history, science, and future of cheese, dairy farming, and their place in the world. For us it is a personal story—the history of dairying in the last hundred years is also the story of Bronwen’s family—and the magnitude of the changes is vast. In little more than a century, industrial mindsets have altered every aspect of the cheesemaking process, from the bodies of the animals that provide the milk, to the microbial strains that ferment it, to the methods used to make the cheese. We wanted to explore what has been lost as raw-milk, single-farm cheeses have given way to the juggernaut of homogeneous factory production.
But while we lament the decline of farmhouse cheese and reject the headlong rush towards monoculture and ever higher yields, for us the story is one of optimism. As we look at cheese from all over the world, from Vermont to Normandy, from Australia to the north of England, in each case we find our inspiration in how scientists—and the most enterprising cheesemakers—have begun to explore the techniques of their great grandparents.
Taking advantage of the latest high-throughput molecular methods, researchers have begun to challenge conventional wisdom about the role of microbes in every part of the world around us, and to reveal the resilience and complexity of the indigenous microbial consortia that contribute to the flavor and safety of cheese. Bit by bit, one experiment at a time, these dynamic communities of researchers and cheesefarmers are reinventing the wheel.
Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese is published in North America by University of California Press. Outside of North America, Reinventing the Wheel is published by Bloomsbury Sigma.
Order in Australia on the publisher’s website.