Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More About Cheese

14th c. Cheesemaking.   Credit: Wikipedia
Cheese is in the news today, as Richard Evershed, who co-authored a study of ancient cheesemaking at the University of Bristol has published a paper pushing back the date of the earliest cheesemaking to about 7000 years ago. There is some suspicion that it was going on another thousand yars before that, but in this latest paper, pottery shards with fine holes them have been analyzed and shown to have milk residue on them.
This is important because most humans were lactose intolerant at that time, losing the ability to digest milk at an early age. But the conversion process of milk into cheesebreaks down lactose, making in tolerable for consumption by humans. It wasn't until dairy farming moved out of what is modern day Turkey and into Europe that it met with a group of mutant humans who retained the ability to digest lactose into adulthood. Once daiying met lactose-digesting humans, milk consumption--particularly raw milk consumption--really took off. Access to a broader range of high-quality food helped spread the genes for lactose tolerance.
Wheels of Gouda   Credit: Wikipedia
Listen to CBC Radio's Quirks & Quarks on Dec. 15 for an interview with Richard Evershed, who co-authored the study of ancient cheesemaking at the University of Bristol.

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