In this week’s Culture Corner, Nicole is going to provide us a brie-f history of cheesemaking: having been part of almost every civilization across the globe, cheesemaking has witnessed a fascinating evolution over the past 10,000 years of human history!
So how did we start down the path of pasteurizing as a species?
Initially, there were many concerns and logistical hurdles with collecting and consuming milk from livestock. Drinking a mother’s milk was believed to pass down characteristics to offspring and no one wants a child with animal-like tendencies. Most early people were also simply lactose intolerant.
The lack of refrigeration for a very perishable product like milk could lead to the growth of harmful bacteria and disease carrying pathogens; being 88% water, milk is heavy and would have been very challenging for nomadic people to transport; and milk’s seasonal availability to the reproductive cycles of livestock, left large periods of time without an available food source.
Then came cheesemaking…
Turning milk into cheese made it a food product, easing those pesky concerns of turning ones’ children into humanoid calves or goats by drinking animal milk, and the process removed lactose.
The longer shelf-life of cheese addressed milk’s perishability and made it safer to consume.
But, what about the weight and transportability issue? Well, cheesemaking involves removing the water and whey from the milk, resulting in a much lighter product.
Cheesemaking also solves the issue of availability: in the early spring and summer months, milk can be gathered in large quantities from livestock munching on fresh grasses, and the cheese can then be aged and stored for many months. This provided a rich source of nutrients and proteins at times when food was scarce.