Food History is a resource for anybody interested in food history. Articles exploring various issues of food history will be featured regularly. Learning food history means that cultural study which involves multidisciplinary approaches from economics, sociology and demography, and even literature.

Monday, September 28, 2009

History of Cheese

History of Cheese
According to an ancient legend, cheese was accidentally made by an Arabian merchant when he put his supply of milk into a pouch made of a sheep’s stomach when he set out on a long day’s journey across the desert.

The rennet in the lining in the pouch combined with heat of the sun caused the milk to separate into curd and whey. This story seems to have occurred approximately 7000 years BC in the so-called Fertile Crescent situated between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris in Iraq.

The earlier records in Vedic hymms in India (6000 to 4000 BC), Egyptian records (4000 BC) and Babylonian records (2000 BC) clearly show references to milk, butter and cheese.

However it is believed that with the advance of civilizations, the art of cheesemaking spread via the Mediterranean basin to the rest of the world.

Witten history is scarce until the period of the Greek and Roman empires, when various authors left written evidence.

Greek records go back to about 1550 BC and Roman records to 750 BC indicating that milk and cheese were important components of the diet of these peoples.

By the beginning of the Christian era, milk and cheese were used as food throughout Europe.

Milking operations and the curding of milk are depicted in an early Sumerian frieze from El-Ubaid. A food material found in the tomb of Hories Aha (3000 BC) has been proven to be cheese.
A scene on the walls of a Ramesid tomb (100 BC) depicts goats being led to pasture and also skin bags suspend from poles. Such bags were traditionally used to ferment milk by nomadic tribes.

During fermentation, drainage of whey though cloth or perforated bowls allowed the collection of curds which when salted became cheese.

There was indications that that the cheese was made n England well before the arrival of the Romans. Cheese was included in the offering of ancient Greeks to the gods at Mount Olympus, and cheesemaking was clearly well established craft at the time of Homer’s writing.

Homer in 1184 BC referred to cheese made in caves by the “Cyclops” Polyphemus from milk of sheep and goats.

Later, Herodotus, 484 to 408 BC, referred to the “Scythian” cheese was made from mares’ milk, while Aristotle (384 to 322 BC) noted that “Phrygian” cheese was made from the milk of mares and asses.

By the fourteen century cheesemaking was a considerably industry in Switzerland, but export was forbidden. At this time, a cheese market was operating in Gouda, Holland. It is reported that the first cooperative cheese factory was started at Voralberg in the Balkans in about 1380.

By 1500m it is recorded that the expansion of cheesemaking in England, France, Germany and Holland resulted in Italy losing its dominant position as a cheesemaker.
History of Cheese

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