Origin of cheese

To begin with, Cheese refers to milk in a form that can be consumed immediately or preserved.  According to Lambert (2000), the process of making cheese is interesting the first step of which is coagulating milk with enzymes or acid and then draining away the resultant liquid, leaving the solids or curds. The curds or solids are then pressed to form cheese (p.17).  Interestingly, the origin of cheese is not known. However, archaeological surveys point to the making of cheese from cow's and goat's milk in the areas around Tigris and Euphrates rivers; geographically located in modern Iraq between 7000 and 6000 B.C, making this place the cradle of cheese.   This archaeological finding is reinforced by the historical fact that the domestication of sheep and goats by nomads has been documented as early as 5000 B.C (p.19).

How cheese was discovered

It is probable that the first cheese was made by souring milk and then draining away the whey in baskets. Apparently, cheese was discovered by desert travelers having been formed from coagulated milk as ancient travelers moved across the desert carrying milk in dried stomachs of animals. According to Lambert (2000), the milk was coagulated due to the high intensity of the sun and as the rennet in the stomach lining of the bag contained chymosin, a form of rennet which caused the milk to coagulate, separating the curds, forming mild tasting cheese. Upon the traveler using the curds to quench their thirst and was satisfied, that marked the birth of cheese (p.21).  In reference to Cilleti (2001) other findings indicate that cheese may have been discovered by leaving a bowl of milk near the fire in the areas of Persia and Near East. The milk was cuddled by the fire into a delicious and healthy mass of curds Archaeological evidence indicates that as early as 2700-2800 B.C, cheese was not only made but molded and drained as well (p.11).

The spread of Cheese

Fox (2004) indicates that the advantages that accrued from the ability to convert milk into cheese may have been would have been due to the fact that it can be well stored, easy transportation,  and as a means of creating variety in the human diet. Thus cheese manufacture was well established in the ancient civilizations of the Middle East, Egypt, Greece and Rome, as accounted for in the Bible (p.2). In fact the Palestine is praised as the land flowing with milk and honey. While it is represented in tomb art in ancient Egypt and mentioned in Greek literature, cheese was also popular with roman citizens to the extent that demand exceeded supply, compelling the emperor Diocletian to fix the maximum price at which cheese could be sold. In addition, the use of rennet, which refers to juice from fig that rapidly coagulates white milk as it is stirred, is also mentioned in European literature of 8th century (p.3).

Martinez (2007) indicates that with the  spread of civilization in the form of Greek colonies, the Golden age of Athens, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, the rise and fall of Carthage and the birth of Christ, Cheese gradually took the position of a dietary staple across the Mediterranean , the Iberian peninsula and most parts of the present day Europe (p.3). Between A.D 200 and A.D 600, cheese followed several paths that were associated with war and others with peace.  It id reported to have fed the Barbarians- the Goths, Gepids, Franks Visigoths and Vandals, who lived primarily on meat, cheese and meat as the subdued that continent. Equally, cheese was fed to monks, who spent much time in the monasteries growing and producing food. Notably, Benedictine and Cistercian monks saved many people from starvation during these years and they became prominent cheese makers, some of the recipes of which are still the same today (p.4).

By 1100s, cheese was recognized as a form of currency in Switzerland and Scandinavia, with wheels of cheese being used to settle bills. Martinez (2007) writes that from AD 800 to A.D 1800, hundreds of cheeses were made, at first in Europe and then in European colonies. Therefore, it can be concluded that colonization served to spread the ideas of cheese making to European colonies. At this time, Jura region became home to Beaufort, Comte, and Emmental cheese (p.6). During the renaissance cheese was made throughout Europe and was so readily available in many varieties that people began to have preferences. Some of the English cheeses made from cow's milk which are still known today include cheddar, Cheshire, Stilton, and Wensleydale (p.6).

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Martinez (2010) indicates that after the renaissance in the 1800s, European cheese declined in popularity due to the rising popularity of sugary desserts, the realization by the people that cheese had lead added to it. American cheese making greatly influenced by European cheese makers settling in the Americas.  These settlers brought with them cows, sheep, goats, and set up dairy farms in Mexico, East Coast and Canada. The era of industrial revolution led to the idea of mass production of cheese and the fall of the traditional production methods in the United States. However, in Europe, despite the adoption of factory production of cheese, traditional small scale methods of production were not abandoned (p.7).  Interestingly the idea of cheese making and consumption has spread to all the countries of world and is produced in factories.

Consumption and Usage of Cheese

Cheese has many uses in the making cooking of many kinds of food, ranging from appetizers and breakfast to soups, salads, breads and sides and pizzas and pasta. In addition, cheese is also an important ingredient in main dishes and desserts.  According to Adams and Barlow (2010), cheese is a vital ingredient in the making pf breakfast recipes such as egg white omelets, pumpkin cream cheese muffins, stuffed French toast and fruit and creamy dip (p.17). In Turkey for example, warm bread is dipped in molten cheese and eaten.  To make Terry's totally yummy cheese ball, which is an appetizer, cream cheese and butter are mixed with other ingredients, chilled for up to 24 hours, shaped into balls and rolled into nuts.  In order to make it possible to use in the various recipes, cheese is sliced, diced, melt, or shredded. Therefore, cheese is consumed by using it in the cooking of other foods.

Cheese in Anatolia and Turkey

In reference to Mitchell (1995), it is presumed that cheese came to Anatolia as early as 8000 years ago, based on archaeological evidence. The remains of indigenous nomadic tribes that roamed the mountains and the plains of Anatolia point to this belief.  Indicates that the only one respect in which the country had advantage was its cheese. Cheese in Anatolia was valued as an excellent way to store milk while retaining much of its nutritional qualities and improving digestibility. In fact, Anatolia is described that 'only in one respect did the country have advantage-its cheese', and 'Of all the cheese in the world, the best is that which we produce in pergamum and in the hills of Mysia' (p.170). Cheese may have been brought to Anatolia by Romans, as a result of the conquest of the herding communities by the then rapidly expanding Roman Empire.

Cheese in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey

Cheese in Turkey is consumed with bread.  Provided that the cheese was soft and the bread still warm from the oven, it became a delicacy that the city dwellers longed for. In addition, it is reported that a diet of cheese and yoghurt is considered a traditional recipe for longevity in modern dietary folk, and thought to have similar properties in the ancient world (p.170). In the Ottoman Empire, cheese-flour pudding: a sweet dessert made with unsalted, fresh cheese mixed with flour and sugar. Furthermore, a dry kind of cheese cured inside an animal skin was eaten alongside rice that has been stirred in butter. There are several uses that cheese has found in the cooking of various kinds of food, ranging from breakfast to main dishes. The wide use of cheese in ancient and present Turkey is due to its great nutritional qualities that are thought to be associated with longevity of life.

In conclusion, although the origin of cheese is not clearly known, its discovery of cheese and its use as a source of food dates back to about eight millennia.  It is presumed that cheese was discovered in the middle and near east by herding communities, and it soon became a staple. To be precise, archaeological findings indicate that cheese making from the milk of goats and cattle in the areas around the rivers Tigris and Euphrates had began 7000 years ago. The use of cheese spread rapidly being influenced by wars, conquests and colonialism, and at about A.D 1100, cheese was highly valued and used in exchange for other valuable items. The spread was first to the Mediterranean and the Middle East and then to Europe. Cheese was brought to America by settlers from Europe.  Several types of cheese have been made and used in various ways and in various parts of the world. Cheese is a vital ingredient in the making of breakfast, soups, appetizers and main dishes. Finally, it can be concluded that cheese is one of the few foods that has survived throughout history and is still being consumed today.

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