If food had souls, this food bears a soul of a charming girl, who can mesmerize anyone with her flirting tricks. She can fit with anyone, anywhere, anytime, and be happy with just herself as well. Her favorite part-time companion is Pizza! With who, if a bit upset can ruin the atmosphere but a little bit of salt can make her happy again! We are talking about ‘Cheese’ the most favorite delight around the world. Called by several names such as cheddar, camembert, gruyere, stilton, Cheshire, or cottage cheese, the taste of cheese vary from geography, soil, or climate and plays a crucial role in contributing to the flavor of milk from the cows, sheep, and goats that produce these iconic cheese varieties.
But since when the world started consuming cheese? Well, we date it back to almost 8000 years ago, when the farmers accidentally discovered the delight of cheese. Let’s check the complete timeline of our beloved cheese.
The Brief History of Cheese
Egyptian tomb murals dating back over 4000 years have found evidence of early cheese making while the remains of other dairy farms have been found in Neolithic ruins. The actual time and birth of cheese and cheese making are unknown in history, but researchers suggest that it might have taken place 8-10,000 years ago. We assume that the world started consuming cheese much before empires and royalties. The farmers of one of the earliest civilizations, living in Fertile Crescent in the Middle East are named as the father of cheese. The rise of agricultural knowledge led to the domestication of several animals such as cows, sheep, and goats. People rely on these animals for milk. It is assumed that this milk when left in warm condition for several hours began to sour. Rennet, an enzyme found in the stomach of ruminant animals, would cause the milk to coagulate on the top, forming yellowish soft clumps. Upon discovering these coagulated clumps, farmers discovered ‘Whey’- the earliest form of cheese.
Another theory suggests that cheese may be been discovered through the early practice of salting curdled milk for preservation purposes. Another theory suggests that the addition of fruit juices to milk would result in curdling the milk using the acid in the fruit juice. These milk curds were strained and gave birth to what we today call cheese. This discovery of ‘whey’ gave early civilization a survival advantage. Around 100 BC, this ‘Whey’ would be processed, whisked, or ripened to make several dairy products. By this time cheese became a standard commodity, like in the age of Julius Caesar when hundreds of varieties of cheese were being produced and traded across the Roman Empire. Soon cheese became a staple food for several religious gatherings, especially in Egypt.
With the spread of cheese making, several countries started producing their own version of cheese; while some enjoyed this new delight- others rejected it. By 1615, many people started adding local flavors to the delicacy providing a whole new range of varieties. For instance, the Mongolians made the sun-dried wedges of ‘Byaslag’ or ‘rushan’ produced in China during the time of the Ming Dynasty and the Egyptians ‘cottage cheese’. While in Asia, people started coagulating the milk by adding lime juice or vinegar to make their own variety of cheese. This variety of cheese was named ‘paneer’ that could be added to the curry or simply fried. Many people still use raw paneer in salads.
Cheese manufacturing started in America in the 17th century, when Thomas Jefferson first brought mac and cheese from France. The English Puritan dairy farmers started using their method of cheese making in producing a new variety of whisked cheese. In 1783, the colonies of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Eastern Massachusetts were the dairymen of nation’s early period. During the Revolutionary war, cheese was given as a staple food to the soldiers. In the Roman Empire, dried cheese called ‘Caseus Aridus’ became an essential ration. In 1831 Wisconsin’s first farmstead cheese factory was opened in Koshkonong. Since last 500 years, Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan and Gouda, have gained a lot of recognition.
The Fantasy With Cheese
With the help of the industrial revolution, widespread manufacturing of cheese started. Several cheese varieties like parmesan, Roquefort, or Munster became very popular. In the Alps, Swiss cheese-making was successful. Today around 22 billion kilograms of cheese is produced a year. Currently, more than one-third of all milk produced each year in the U.S. is used to manufacture cheese. This cheese is traded and consumed by almost every civilization on the globe. Some use to fry it into chips or fried delicacies, while others enjoy it combining with various other foods enhancing the quality of the flavor. Today cheese is a compulsory product for making pizza, pasta, sandwiches, cakes, and fondue. And as the consumer demand grows, hopefully, the cheese will continue to expand and reach the farthest corner of the world.
While international marketing is high, many people still rely on the traditional practice of cheese making for producing their own homegrown variety of cheese.