Cheese Where Art Thou?
Ahhh . . . the elusive origin of cheese. One educated guess
is shortly after man began to domesticate animals moving from
being hunters to herders, around 7,000 BC. A well-told story
in historical circles is of an unknown Arab nomad. He is said
to have filled a saddlebag with milk to sustain him on a journey
across the desert by horse. When he stopped to quench his
thirst he found the milk had separated into a pale watery
liquid and solid white lumps. Because the saddlebag, which
was made from the stomach of a young animal, contained a coagulating
enzyme known as rennin, the milk had been effectively separated
into curds and whey by the combination of rennin, the hot
sun, and the galloping motions of the horse.
Archeologists have discovered tall jars used to store cow’s
and goat’s milk cheeses dating from 6,000 B.C. in Central
Asia. Around the same time in Mesopotamia a temple to the
Goddess Ninchursag was built portraying the crafting of cheese
on one of her walls.
Records show the Sumarians were crafting cheese at this time.
The ancient Greeks credited Aristaeus, a son of Apollo and
Cyrene, with its discovery. Greek mythology demands a special
position as food and sacrificial gifts for goat’s milk
and it’s cheeses. The Roman’s at this time consumed
goat and sheep milk cheeses as a daily staple.
Egyption tomb murals show butter and cheese being made, and
other murals depict milk being stored in skin bags and suspended
from poles demonstrating knowledge of dairy husbandry. There
have been modern discoveries of cheese buried in the pyramids.
Talk about hard grating cheese!!!
Homer refers to cheese being made in mountain caves of Greece
from the milk of sheep and goats in his Illiad and The Odyssey.
A variety similar to feta was sold by the Greeks to the Romans
for 1p per pound.
Aristotle commented on cheese made from the milk of mares
and asses - the Russian ‘koumiss’ is in fact derived
from mare’s milk and is fermented to provide an alcoholic
content of up to 3%.
AD to Present Day (O.K., the short and sweet version!)
In 300 AD a highly popular cheese stamped and sold under the
name ‘La Luna’ was the precursor to today’s
Parmesan, which was first reported as an individual make of
cheese in 1579. Cantal, a cow’s milk cheese from France
has been made for over 2,000 years and is one of the oldest
types of cheese still being made today. Other ancient cheeses
still being enjoyed today include; Brie de Meaux; served regularly
at the table of Karl the Great King of Germany in 768 until
he tasted a Roquefort for the first time. Gorgonzola was said
to have been registered in the year 879. And now . . . well
there are just too many cheeses to count and more coming into
existence everyday. Stay on the look out for some phenomenal
artisian cheeses made in the good ol’ US of A. We may
be about 9,000 years late to jump in the running but we are