Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese

Reinventing the Wheel tells the story of cheese and its place in the modern world. For our colleague Bronwen, this is a personal story—the history of dairying in the last hundred years is also the story of her family—and the magnitude of the changes is vast.

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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.

Bronwen and her husband Francis 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 they lament the decline of farmhouse cheese and reject the headlong rush towards monoculture and ever-higher yields, Reinventing the Wheel is an optimistic book.

As they look at cheeses from all over the world, including many that we sell at Neal’s Yard Dairy, they find inspiration in how scientists—and the most enterprising cheesemakers—have begun to explore the techniques of their great grandparents.

Bit by bit, one experiment at a time, these dynamic communities of researchers and cheesefarmers are reinventing the wheel.

 

Praise for Reinventing the Wheel:

“Reinventing the Wheel is a rich and eye-opening insider’s account of the modern cheese world: the anonymous uniformity underlying the apparent bounty of the cheese counter, the near extinction of truly exceptional cheeses, and the new scientific appreciation of prescientific cheesemaking, with its canny reliance on biodiversity in pastures and cattle and the dairy, which may help bring more distinctive and flavorful cheeses to tomorrow’s table.”—Harold McGee

“A fascinating timely tale of re-learning how to work with microbes and rescue healthy traditional cheese.”—Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London and author of The Diet Myth “A brilliant consideration of microbial ecology, the science that is causing a refresh of our view of everything from human health to the health of cows and farmers in the dairy industry.”—Wine and Spirits Magazine (2017 Book of the Year)

“Not since Harold McGee’s monumental On Food and Cooking (1984) and Sandor Katz’s masterly The Art of Fermentation (2012) have I enjoyed and learned so much as I did from the Percivals’ book.”—Steven Jenkins, The Wall Street Journal

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