Writer James Norton and photographer Becca Dilley have written a book documenting the graduates of the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker program. It was published by the University of Wisconsin Press Nov. 25, 2009. The husband and wife team has been touring in support of the book since mid-November, and are now working on a new book about Minnesota sandwiches for the Minnesota Historical Society.
The master cheesemaker program is cosponsored by the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Dairy Research and the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. Inaugurated in 1994, it educates, certifies, and showcases licensed cheesemakers who excel in their field. The program promotes collaboration between cheesemakers, and offers them opportunities to meet accomplished cheesemakers from other parts of the country and Europe.
Our goal was to put a human face on this remarkable program, educate and entertain readers with Wisconsin’s diverse and photogenic array of cheeses, and document a vital part of the state’s cultural heritage. We’ve used the process of writing the book as an opportunity to explore the food history, ethnic heritage, and haute cuisine potential of some of the state’s finest dairy offerings.
In the process of researching the book, we logged more than 7,600 miles on Wisconsin highways and back roads, visiting 35 cheese plants and interviewing 43 individual cheesemakers. We hesitate to estimate how many pounds of cheese we consumed.