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. Reinventing the Wheel explores what has been lost as single-farm cheeses that convey a sense of place have given way to the juggernaut of homogeneous factory production. Francis and Bronwen Percival reject the mainstream shift toward higher yields and monoculture. Instead, they find inspiration in recent scientific advances that challenge conventional wisdom about the need for pasteurization and reveal the resilience and complexity of the indigenous microbial cultures that contribute to the flavor of cheese.
In Reinventing the Wheel, the Percivals lament the decline of farmhouse cheese, but they don’t stop there: they show how cutting-edge scientific discoveries can help reverse this trend—and why it matters. The story takes the reader on a global journey, from Vermont to Normandy to Australia, in the authors’ quest to answer the question, what is real cheese?
Bronwen Percival is the cheese buyer at Neal’s Yard Dairy in London. She initiated the biennial Science of Artisan Cheese Conference and is cofounder of the website microbialfoods.org. In addition to serving on the editorial board of the Oxford Companion to Cheese, she recently edited an English translation of the leading French textbook on raw milk microbiology for cheesemakers.
Francis Percival writes on food and wine for The World of Fine Wine, for which work he won the Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year award in 2013 and Pio Cesare Wine and Food Writer of the Year 2015. His work has also appeared in Culture, Decanter, Saveur, and the Financial Times. Together with Bronwen, he is a cofounder of the London Gastronomy Seminars.