A 10,000-year Food Fracas

Book - 2018
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Mark Kurlansky's first global food history since the bestselling Cod and Salt ; the fascinating cultural, economic, and culinary story of milk and all things dairy--with recipes throughout.

According to the Greek creation myth, we are so much spilt milk; a splatter of the goddess Hera's breast milk became our galaxy, the Milky Way. But while mother's milk may be the essence of nourishment, it is the milk of other mammals that humans have cultivated ever since the domestication of animals more than 10,000 years ago, originally as a source of cheese, yogurt, kefir, and all manner of edible innovations that rendered lactose digestible, and then, when genetic mutation made some of us lactose-tolerant, milk itself.

Before the industrial revolution, it was common for families to keep dairy cows and produce their own milk. But during the nineteenth century mass production and urbanization made milk safety a leading issue of the day, with milk-borne illnesses a common cause of death. Pasteurization slowly became a legislative matter. And today milk is a test case in the most pressing issues in food politics, from industrial farming and animal rights to GMOs, the locavore movement, and advocates for raw milk, who controversially reject pasteurization.

Profoundly intertwined with human civilization, milk has a compelling and a surprisingly global story to tell, and historian Mark Kurlansky is the perfect person to tell it. Tracing the liquid's diverse history from antiquity to the present, he details its curious and crucial role in cultural evolution, religion, nutrition, politics, and economics.

Publisher: New York, New York :, Bloomsbury Publishing,, 2018, ©2018.
ISBN: 9781632863829
Branch Call Number: 637. 109 KUR
Characteristics: xiv, 385 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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IndyPL_SteveB Nov 23, 2018

A history of milk in all its forms, from liquid to the thousands of cheese varieties, ice cream and yogurt. And not just cows. He writes about sheep, goats, donkeys, buffalo, and camels. He discusses how the Mongols drank mare’s milk and how the Tibetans make many things with yak milk. He does not leave out human milk, either. There is a long discussion about human breast feeding, how styles have changed in feeding children over the centuries, and whether there is any scientific evidence for which milk is really better for babies or young children. (Like most real-world research, the results are mixed.)

Kurlansky encourages reader participation, because he provides dozens of milk recipes used over the centuries from all of the above mammals. Custard, butter, creamed soups, milk toast, hot chocolate, ice cream, yogurt, and many different cheeses. The author also provides a milky trip around the world, looking to see how cheese and yogurt are made in different traditions, and how the dairy business operates in England, India, Greece, and tropical countries. There is a fairly detailed discussion of the economics of dairy farms and comparisons between the massive industrial farms and the small hand-milked herds that primarily produce raw milk, “organic” milk, or cheese.

It seemed a bit disorganized, but otherwise an "udderly" fascinating book.

Sep 13, 2018

Mark Kurlansky has done it again with another great book on foods we take for granted and which yet occupy mentions in nearly every religious scriptures on the planet. As he did in his book on salt, he has unearthed history that is fascinating and not scholarly fluff. Great book.

Aug 27, 2018

Although some attention is paid to societal issues, the bulk of this book focuses on milk-related recipes throughout world history. If you're interested in specific dishes or attempting to recreate them, you'll likely enjoy this book. As a non-foodie, I would have preferred more depth of research on the tough questions and science surrounding milk, instead of the blanket "no one knows for sure" approach taken to current controversies.

Aug 08, 2018

Other books on milk are better. Not specific on where this goes. Does talk about Mitchnicofs foray into the health practices of yoguts ect. Also stated that milks was unsafe until modern practices started. Is in interesting ready but others are better

Aug 06, 2018

A delightful series of historical, biological, cultural, geneological tidbits. Goes down easily as a creme chantilly.

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