Who Invented Cheese?

Who invented cheese?

Earliest Use of Cheese

Cheese has been around for so long, it’s impossible to know who invented the art of making it. It’s generally believed that cheese first appeared in the Middle East, perhaps as far back as 6,000 BC. Murals of ancient Egypt going back 2,000 BC show people making cheese and storing them in skin bags. These skin bags were made from animals’ stomachs. Most likely humans first discovered cheese when they stored milk in them for long journeys. The combination of enzymes in the skins, heat and motion caused the milk to curdle and break up. The result was a watery fermented liquid and edible curds of cheese.

Cheese in Different Places

There is plenty of evidence that various peoples in Europe and the Near East used cheese. The Cyclops are recorded to have made cheese in Homer’s Odyssey. In the Bible we find David ate cheese and gave them as presents to a military ally. The Jews were clearly producing cheese on a large scale since there was a Cheesemakers’ Valley at the time.

Romans and Cheese
Everyone knows that cheese is a major part of Italian cuisine. It’s not surprising since it was the ancient Romans who invented cheese as we know it today. They not only raised the bar when it comes cheese making. They also found out that changes in the environment and materials used affected the flavor of the cheese. Hence different kinds of cheeses were invented. The Romans took their cheese making art so seriously that the wealthy even had special areas in their homes dedicated to aging cheese. Many ancient writers have commented on the Romans and their expert curdling, including Aristotle, Homer and Varro. But it was a soldier-turned-farmer namd Columella who actually wrote about how to make cheese the Roman way. The basic principles he laid down in 50 AD can still be applied today.

Cheese spread abroad from Rome for two reasons: First, through exporting of the product across the Mediterranean. Second, through Roman soldiers who settled in conquered lands as farmers. Eventually the general population both Roman and foreign, became familiar with cheese making. Europeans including the Swiss, French and the Dutch, also learned to make their own types of cheeses.

Cheese in America
The first type of cheese to arrive in the New World was goat cheese. The first mass production of cheese in the country took place in 1851 in New York. Demand for cheese have risen steadily ever since. No doubt for the sake of cheese itself as well as products containing cheese, including popular Italian foods like pizza and lasagna.