From Publishers Weekly
In a recipe book that is part cultural critique and part culinary history, Mendelson (Stand Facing the Stove
) reaps nearly 400 fascinating pages from that most elemental of ingredients. Yet the story of dairy is perhaps not quite so surprising as the title suggests--it's more or less the story of all industrialized food production through the last century, in which the flavor and quality of natural foods have been subjugated to dietary concerns, food safety and the sheer volume needed for mass consumption. As a result, Mendelson argues, the product most Americans call milk bears very little resemblance to what initially spurts from the cow's udder. Mendelson exhaustively traces milk production and consumption back to 6000 B.C. and through the Middle East, India and Europe, where milch animals were first herded and bred. The final two-thirds of the book are divided into chapters devoted to fresh milk and cream; yogurt; cultured milk and cream; butter, true buttermilk and fresh cheese, each with traditional recipes from around the world. Aspiring cheese makers will find some basic science, and the eclectic recipes (such as French Vichyssoise, Turkish Ayran and Eastern European Kugel) are reliable and detailed. Mendelson is optimistic that a brighter future for dairying lies in the rise of small farm operations--a future in which more consumers can share her obvious passion for the product. (Oct.)
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Whether or not it’s “nature’s perfect food,” the milk people buy at the supermarket has been processed, heated, deconstructed, and its parts reassembled in ways that consumers have been persuaded are good for them. The twin developments of pasteurization and refrigeration began this, abetted by advances in dairy-cow husbandry and transportation. Tuberculosis and other pathogens have virtually disappeared from the milk supply, but at the expense of milk’s native flavors. Moreover, mechanical separation of milk into its constituent fats, sugars, and proteins has flooded the market with all manner of fluid milks, each claiming some health benefit depending on the nutritional fad of the moment. Mendelson reminds that virtually no one today knows what milk really tastes like. To help people nevertheless enjoy available milk, she presents a host of recipes featuring milk, from milk toast through rice pudding. She includes exotica such as India’s panir cheese, Mexico’s dulce de leche, and a home method for producing English clotted cream. --Mark Knoblauch