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History of Cheese

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Here is the history of cheese from a 7th grade boy writing a speech for his schools annual "Speech Arts" competition:


Grilled cheese, mac n’ cheese, cheese puffs, mozzarella sticks. What do all of these dishes have in common. Cheese. Cheese has become a wide spread staple in families all across the world. Dishes are made just to display the wondrous flavours of cheese. There are over 750 types of cheese going from the classic we know to more unusual products of experimenting. Nevertheless, how did cheese end up on everyone’s dinner table. To find out, we have to go back almost 7,200 years back, to the ancient Egyptian civilization.


Civilization AND cheese were just beginning. Around the neolithic times, farmers in the fertile crescent had always milked sheep and goats. But when the milk would be left out in the sun for hours at a time, the milk would become expired and the lactic acids would create clumps in the sour milk. These farmers would drain out the sour milk and keep the clumps or curds of what we know now is cheese. After taking the curds, farmers realized they could be eaten to make a healthy and filling meal. This new found food were the great-great grandparents of the types of cheese we eat now.


These curds gave a great advantage to the eater. The milk that most people had eaten was full of great vitamins and minerals. The milk had one disadvantage though and this was the lactose that did not settle well in these ancient peoples stomachs. Cheese had all the same minerals and vitamins but with much less lactose. The cheese was also easily stored during long famines or cold winters. These advantages was the main reason that the trade of cheese had skyrocketed. Cheese had already taken over cities in mesopotamia. Becoming a staple for food and religion. Infact, one of the first known writings were identified as cheese quotas for religious and stomach purposes. Cheese has already started taking over the food industry but a new wave of cheese was soon to come.


According to an ancient legend, an Arabian merchant needed somewhere to store his milk. He had decided to store his milk into a pouch made from a sheep's stomach. Some certain animals were able to separate their mothers milk into a more solid forms. They were controlling the coagulation of the milk itself. This was all possible because of the rennet in the mammals stomachs. That night, the merchant was thirsty and hungry so he decided to drink the liquid called whey and eat the curd, now known as cheese, which satisfied his hunger with delight. This new found tool called rennet would soon spread across the world, making new and more solid forms of cheese that we know now. All across the globe, people would use the rennet to create the cheese and their own twist to it, making different types of cheese. In Egypt, they used goats milk to create cottage cheese. In Mongolia, they used yacs milk to create hard wedge of cheese called byaslag. In South Asia, the milk would be coagulated with other food acids like yogurt or lemon. Then, they would leave it to dry, trapping the flavours into these loaves called paneer. In Medieval European countries, monasteries would experiment with different milks to create a lot of cheese we are fond of now. At the end of the 14th century, cheese in Switzerland, called alpine cheese, was so profitable that other lands invaded the Gruyere land to take control of the alpine cheese.


The cheese industry continued to blossom in the Europe and Middle Eastern countries until in 1620, cheese was introduced to the new world, North America. Here, cheese making would turn to factories. The first cheese making factory was made in 1851, made to settle the desire that many American citizens. This was just the start of a cheese making revolution that would spread throughout America and into Europe. In modern times, this mass production of rennet turned into scientists figuring out more cost effective ways to create longer lasting cheese for the lower class. This is when the factory made cheese had started to flourish in North American and Europe. Since then, the main source of cheese making is from factories in American and Europe. Nowadays, people across the globe buy more processed cheese than the more fresh version.


Now the next time you eat cheese, remember the effort it took for cheese to become such widespread. Going from expired milk curds to the now more commonly known cheeses like cheddar. Cheese was even used for religious practices at a point. A quote by Clifton Fadiman states “Cheese [is] milk’s leap towards immortality.”. I bet cheese will do more in life than most of you will ever do.







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