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The Origin of Cheese Theories

Ever wonder when and how cheese was discovered? Well unfortunately, the actual time and place of the origin of cheese and cheesemaking is unknown!

What's super intriguing is that the art of cheesemaking is referred to in ancient Greek mythology and evidence of cheese and cheesemaking has been found on Egyptian tomb murals dating back over 4,000 years!

One theory of how cheese may have been discovered is through an accident! The practice of cheesemaking is closely related to the domestication of milk producing animals; primarily sheep, which began about 8,000-10,000 years ago. Rennet, the enzyme used to make cheese, is naturally present in the stomachs of ruminants. The leak-proof stomachs and other bladder-like organs of animals were often used to store and transport milk and other liquids. No refrigeration plus warm summer heat in combination with residual rennet in the stomach lining would have naturally curdled the milk to produce the earliest forms of cheese!

Another theory of how cheese came to be is through the chance encounter between a fruit fly and a pail of milk. Through the Quartz website, I discovered how "milk yeast" - the handy microorganism that can decompose lactose in milk to create dairy products like cheese and yogurt - originated from a fruit fly and a milk pail 5,500 years ago!

Now, bare with me on this explanation I found via The Quartz's Website... It gets a little crazy.

It is believed that milk yeast owes its very existence to a fly landing in fermenting milk and starting an unusual liaison. The fly in question was the common fruit fly, Drosophila, and it carried with it the ancestor of K. lactis. Although the fly died, the yeast lived, but with a problem—it could not use the lactose in milk as a food source. Instead, it found an unconventional solution—reproducing with its cousin.

When K. lactis arrived with the fly, its cousin K. marxianus was already happily growing in the milk. K. marxianus is able to use lactose for growth because it has two extra proteins which can help break down lactose into simple sugars that it then uses for energy. The cousins reproduced and the genes needed to use lactose transferred from K. marxianus to K. lactis. The end result was that K. lactis acquired two new genes and could then grow on lactose and survive on its own. The fermented product that K. lactis made must have been particularly delicious as it was used to start a new fermentation—a routine that has continued to the present day.

Who would have thought that such random events in the past would produce one of the world's greatest culinary experiences!

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