This year has been a great year for books on cheese. Everyone’s writing a cheese book! For instance, I devoured House of Cheese: A Guide to Recipes, Pairings, and Wedges by Tenaya Darlington, a.k.a. Madame Fromage, then pored over Kirstin Jackson’s It’s Not You, It’s Brie: Unwrapping America’s Unique Culture of Cheese. Now comes Pacific Northwest Cheese: A History by established cheese writer Tami Parr. Tami is based in Portland, Oregon, and has been researching and sharing cheese knowledge for almost 10 years through her website the Pacific Northwest Cheese Project and her previous book, Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest. I am lucky to count her among my cheesy friends.
The book is, as the title suggests, a historical account of the cheese industry (industrial and artisan) in the Pacific Northwest. By tracing the evolution of this delicious food, the reader is given great perspective into the people who shaped this part of the country, as well as the many challenges they faced. Cheese nourished intrepid fur traders as they moved west in the early 19th century—but to make it, they needed to bring their own animals. Humans were not the only pioneers of the Wild West! Cows, goats, pigs, and chickened joined settlers as they established themselves. From there, Parr takes us on a tour of the individuals, their skills, and the animals that helped grow the local cheese trade. Goat lovers will love reading about Nancy, the goat who accompanied American Captain Robert Grey, as well as the goat’s coming into favor in the twentieth century for milk production. We learn about the ear of Mass Production around the time of the World Wars, and later, what she terms the Artisan Cheese Renaissance. There’s even an appendix full of cheesemaker names for you to do your own field research afterward.
As I have come to expect from Tami, this slim, yet informative volume, is impeccably researched and beautifully written! If you are interested in cheese, American history (like me!), old photos, animals, agriculture, innovation, or food, this is a must-have.