Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages, With 120 Adventurous Recipes That Explore the Riches of Our First Food
Reviewed by MM Pack, Fri., May 29, 2009
Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages, With 120 Adventurous Recipes That Explore the Riches of Our First Foodby Anne Mendelson
Knopf, 352 pp., $29.95
Almost 400 pages about milk? Yes, indeed, and it's all fascinating. Anne Mendelson, a frequent contributor to Gourmet magazine, is one of the most respected food scholars in the country, and when she sinks her teeth into a topic, you can be sure that the facts are straight, the history is sound, and the recipes will work. Not to mention that she writes with skill and wit and is not afraid to express a doubt or an opinion.
The book is divided into two parts: history and recipes. The first includes a survey of human consumption of animal milk, "a geographical-historical exploration of the world's milky ways, including those that have shaped the modern American milk supply for better or worse." Here we learn about the several "milk belts" of Europe and Asia, why some mammals get milked (cows, goats, sheep, yaks) and others don't (pigs and dogs), and the critical role of lactic acid across the Middle East and Central Asia, which Mendelson dubs "Yogurtistan." She documents the history of the milk industry in the U.S. and provides a lucid and rational explanation of the pasteurization/homogenization/raw-milk controversy, presenting facts and factions but allowing readers to draw their own conclusions.
The second half is a global compendium of milk-based recipes, with sections on cream, butter, yogurt, buttermilk, and fresh cheeses. From Ethiopian-spiced clarified butter to mango lassi to homemade sour cream to Liptauer cheese, Mendelson provides not only workable recipes but the science behind them and invaluable cultural contexts.
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