As a kid, Heather Paxson wouldn't eat American cheese.
"I thought it was not real food and it was an insult," she says of her youthful disdain for the processed stuff. As an elementary school student growing up in southern Illinois, Paxson insisted on cheddar or Swiss for her sandwiches instead.
Today, Paxson is a tenured professor in MIT's Anthropology Program, where she does ethnographic research into artisanal cheese making in the United States. She studies several aspects of cheese production, from the cultural – who is behind the current renaissance in handmade cheeses? – to what she calls the "microbiopolitics" of raw-milk cheese on this side of the Atlantic. More