I would love to try this! Actually, the strange thing is that we as humans are not repulsed by the fact that we drink bovine mammary fluids and not our own. Seriously! Just think about that for a second. Even monkey milk seems more appropriate. We’ve abducted these slothful massive grass eating creatures from the prairies/steppes and we steal their babies’ nourishment, put it in supermarkets…yet we find human milk cheese odd? Humans are hilarious. The things we normalize and the things we abnormalize….
A dish from chef Daniel Angerer, who made cheese from mother’s milk (breast milk) that came from his wife Lori Mason. He did not serve the human cheese in his restaurant. Shown: mommy’s milk cheese rolled in dehydrated porcini mushroom powder with burned onion chutney
Kathryn Blaze Carlson
January 18, 2011
The Wisconsin Bang variety is “deliciously creamy,” City Funk has a “dizzying sweet finish,” and Sweet Air Equity is a “mild, hard cheese that crumbles in your mouth.” The fromage connoisseur might salivate at these tantalizing descriptions, but for those who know the key ingredient — human breast milk — these culinary accounts elicit everything from curiosity to utter disgust.
To New Yorker Miriam Simun, a breast-milk cheese-maker who recently served up the creations as part of a university project, the question is: To eat or not to eat. We consume breast milk as a baby, so why not spread it on a baguette as an adult? We consume cow’s cheese, so why not sink our teeth into cheese coagulated from human milk?
Why not eat Wisconsin Bang, made from milk purchased form a lawyer’s assistant in the Cheese State? (The going rate for human milk is $2 an ounce).
“Human cheese is initially a pretty shocking concept to most people,” said Ms. Simun, whose project emerged from a Living Systems course at New York University’s Interactive Technology Program. “Many people feel uncomfortable because they don’t know the woman or what she is eating, but the women that participated shared their diets, their feelings, some biographical information. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a cheese where you can know this much about the cow.”
Pretty shocking concept indeed.
When New York chef Daniel Angerer blogged last year about making cheese from a combination of cow’s milk and his wife’s lactation — Mommy’s Milk, as he called it — the press went berserk, and then lined up to try it.
“I got fan mail, and I got hate mail — people are on the extremes about this,” he said, adding that the recipe was sparked by an overabundance of his wife’s milk coupled with a lack of freezer space. “It’s not like I dove into it and started eating it for breakfast, it was an experiment … I think people’s reaction has less to do with taste, and more to do with morality.”
Some onlookers have gone so far as to condemn human cheese as a slippery segue into cannibalism, an abhorrent use of a mother’s milk that, if it were to become a cottage industry, could lead to the exploitation of women.
On the other extreme is PETA, the animal rights organization, which wrote this after a Swiss restaurant added breast-milk to its menu two years ago: “PETA was inspired to ask ice-cream giant Ben & Jerry’s to switch from unhealthy bovine juice stolen from tormented calves (aka “cow milk”) to healthier, humane human breast milk.”
But breast milk itself has a long history of dividing. There is the breast-feeding versus formula debate, and there is the right-to-breast-feed-in-public debate — a woman was recently booted from a Montreal store for breast-feeding, sparking a ‘nurse-in demonstration’ by more than 100 mothers.
And four years ago, after a Toronto performance artist invited audiences to sample breast milk at her so-called Lactation Station Breast Milk Bar, Health Canada issued a warning against buying breast milk because it may contain HIV and pose other health risks. This, three years before actress Salma Hayek made international headlines for nursing a stranger’s seven-day-old boy in Sierra Leone.
“The subject of breast feeding always strikes an emotional reaction,” said Dr. Jack Newman, chairman of the Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation. “And in our society, breasts are thought of for sex — not for nurturing, or making milk.”
Ms. Simun said the intention of her project is, in fact, to elicit reaction, and to spark a discussion about food ethics and about what, exactly, constitutes healthy food.
“It’s a great conversation starter — people ask a lot of questions,” said Ms. Simun, who will be hosting a tasting this month at a Cross-Species Adventure club dinner in New York. “Is it OK for a vegan? … Is it dangerous or actually healthier?”
To be sure, human milk is different from cow’s milk, and cannot alone a cheese make. Mr. Angerer discovered this after several fruitless attempts, later surmising that his failure was due to human milk’s lower protein content.
Finally, after using equal parts heated animal and human milk, and after adding cultured bacteria (he used about a teaspoon of yogurt), voila: Mommy’s Milk cheese, born from the same milk that once fed his daughter, Arabella.
Ms. Simun’s cheeses also use either goat’s or cow’s milk, though she hopes to use molecular gastronomy to someday create 100% pure human-milk cheese.
Louise White, an independent lactation consultant in Toronto, said the stage at which the milk is extracted could also affect human-cheese creation, most notably in terms of its consistency and nutritional value.
“It’s more like skim milk at the beginning of the feed, and then like homogenized milk toward the end,” she said.
Dr. Newman said he “can’t imagine” that human cheese would be any more nutritious than cheese made from any other animal, but also said it could not hurt — so long as the mother is healthy and the milk undergoes the necessary screening.
“Humans are supposed to consume human milk, though I’m not too sure we’re supposed to consume cheese made from human milk,” he joked. “It comes down to what’s viewed as normal by society, and what’s viewed as disgusting.”