Cheesemaking is a time-tested and aged art, but the process is only half of the story! The history of cheese is not quite as simple as you might think, and it can connect us back to some of the most iconic figures of the past. From politicians to pop stars, join culture intern Emily as she dives into history and learns about the cheese culture during the life and times of some of America’s most famous faces. Last week we looked at the changing faces of Michael Jackson and rennet substitutes. This week we’ll be exploring the bizarre styles of Lady Gaga and modern cheese cuisine.
After spending the last eight weeks traveling through the timeline of American cheese history, our trip concludes in the present era. Our modern world is filled with hyped-up celebrities and 15-minute-famers, but few are able to consistently make the same visual impact that Lady Gaga often creates with her outrageous appearances. She’s worn every oddball outfit imaginable, and has embodied a variety of food groups, from fried eggs, to meat, to cheese.
Whatever your opinion of her music might be, it’s hard to deny the fact that Lady Gaga has firmly established herself as a cultural icon within our modern society. With her outlandish style choices and costume-esque attire, Lady Gaga is an instantly recognizable figure, even when you’re not entirely sure what it is that you’re recognizing. Known for blurring the boundaries between fashion, theater, and art, Lady Gaga is rarely seen in a getup that doesn’t live up to her unconventional stage name. It’s probably a safe assumption to say that no one aspires to look like Lady Gaga on a daily basis, but as a celebrity-crazed society we take great pleasure in seeing what cooky creation she’ll shock us with next. Both entertaining and slightly inspiring, Lady Gaga’s extreme wardrobe is, in many ways, representative of our modern attitudes towards individualism and non-conformity. As Lady Gaga continues to make us do double-takes, the world of cheese has also experienced some radical makeovers. Unsatisfied with traditional cheesemaking practices and flavors, some adventurous foodies have taken cheese to a wacky, whimsical, and uncomfortably weird level.
Although a classic wheel will never go out of style, makers have been known to get creative with their cheeses, and enjoy producing cheese that can be found in a variety of strange shapes and sizes. And while simply creating conical or braided cheese is all in good fun, experimenting with the way cheese tastes is another game entirely. In 2011, British cheesemakers received a private commission to produce an exceptionally flavored fromage. If you think that Clawson Stilton Gold looks like a cheese jackpot, that’s because it quite literally is; veined with edible gold leaf and real gold-liqueur, a single slice of Clawson cost over $120.
Obviously, what makes this cheese truly extravagant is its use of unorthodox ingredients, rather than the white Stilton itself. Enjoying novelty foods, made with unusual ingredients, is a trend among modern food fanatics. And while people have been making cheese with unexpected animal dairy – such as reindeer, camel, horse, and donkey milk – for years out of necessity, using non-traditional ingredients is now a growing trend in Western cuisine.
Not one to leave his curiosity unsatisfied, chef Daniel Angerer of New York took his quest for unconventionality to such an extreme that in 2010 he created Human Cheese, made from the breast milk of his nursing wife. Since then, the experimental use of breast milk as an ingredient has spread to other dairy products, most notably Baby Gaga ice cream. In 2011, London-based ice cream store owner Matt O’Connor created his first batch of Baby Gaga by using breast milk supplied by fifteen donors. Although theoretically the most natural ingredient a human could consume (we all did at one point, didn’t we?), it takes a truly adventurous eater to taste something that out-of-the-box. Quite frankly, I’d pick artificial and chemical-laden mystery cheese over a something with the word “human” included in the name any day. Would you?
There are some pretty funky cheeses out there! From rock-hard yak cheese to the maggot-infested Casu Marzu, cheese has a long history that is ripe with strange flavors. What is the weirdest cheese you have ever been brave enough to try? Share your answer in the comments section, and you can win a free issue of our latest print edition! Comments must be posted by Tuesday, December 9, 2014 to be eligible to win. Winners must have a mailing address in the continental US. Good luck!Photo Credit: Featured image courtesy of popcrush.com