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Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages Hardcover – October 7, 2008

18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (October 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400044103
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400044108
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Tracey E. Herman on April 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I loved this book from start to finish. It would have been easy for her to pick sides in a raw-milk argument or something like that, but instead she just promotes the pros of real, fresh milk.
The history section as well as the section about the modern milk industry were very interesting, but the recipe sections, complete with "milk experiments" takes the reader on a truly delicious adventures. Start with the Lemon Sponge Pudding!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Cec on June 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book for the recipes (which I haven't tried yet) but to my surprise, I am REALLY finding the historical content fascinating. It's well-written and witty; the author has a lovely sense of humor that comes out in her writing. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a good read about what life has been like for the past 10,000 years, told from the everyday perspective of our relationship with our herd animals and customs over many years. After reading this book I'll be a lot braver about trying some "odd" yogurts and cheeses! (Water Buffalo cream cheese, anyone?)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By E. Witter on May 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I am flabbergasted by the people reviewing this book (especially the lady that gave it three stars) that give it a low rating because it's "heavy on history". Did you not read the title before you started the book??? Its fairly obvious that this read is heavy on the history thus the appeal to history buffs. I believe the author presented her unbiased, informed opinion on the history of milk through research that she explains in her book. If the simple minded individuals that complained about her biased opinion on raw milk reread the chapter it would be read that she clearly indicates that she isn't campaigning for raw milk and even states negative issues associated with it.
This is a must read for anyone that consumes dairy products and has an attention span (which most people in this country no longer have, unfortunately).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Todd Ondick on June 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I found this book a delightful and inviting journey into the natural history of the human relationship with, and creation of, the domestic milk animal and their amazing gift to us!

Read it if you want to learn something new about milk and the animals with whom we have intertwined our lives. Mendelson has done an outstanding job of telling what could otherwise be a tedious tale with wit, verve, and a healthy dose of remarkable details. Keep reading if you want to play and experiment with some of the myriad foods created using milk as a primary ingredient from around the globe.

This is not an easy read, but a rather enjoyable one! Mendelson's prose is vivid and stimulating, but requires some work on the reader's part. If you have the interest, this book will reward, in kind.

This book could have been used as a soapbox, pushing for a certain agenda- promoting milk that is raw, unpasteurized, organic, grass-fed, unhomogenized, or from a specific animal. On the contrary, Mendelson describes the differences while promoting personal exploration. Seek out the variations and try them for yourself; what a novel idea! She appears rather reluctant to endorse a milk genre, though she does voice her opinions and notes the detriment of certain processes on taste and culinary suitability. For me, this was the critical piece in enjoying this book; Mendelson wants to share a fascination and love for milk, no strings attached! What a wonderful read!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By JOHN GODFREY on July 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
years ago that a person considered that which comes out of another of another species could be used as a food source. This first occurred in the mid-east, perhaps Iran or Eurasia. It was not cows. They hadn't evolved into the animals we know today. Anne Mendelson points out that these first people to use milk products were highly lactose intolerant. Hence the use of sour milk, low in lactose, as opposed to fresh from the source milk. That led to the development of yogurt which became a mainstay in the diets of many people of the area. This book is divided into two parts. The majority of it is recipes. It is the text & historical record of milk that I am interested in here. The custom of drinking fresh milk daily is a western idea, western Europe Great Britain & North America. These people were not nearly as lactose intolerant. Given the devolopment of dairy cows, the most prolific of milk givers & the improvement of delivery systems to urban dwellers, it became required drinking for health. Dairy cows thrive in the temporate climate of Europe & the Americas. it has since been proven that although nutritious, milk products are not required for good health.
Ms Mendelson starts out, evenhandedly enough, concerning the ongoing debate, even today on the processing of milk. The pasteurized, homogenized, fat reduced, fat free stuff most of us drink vs the straight from the cow, unpasteurized not homogenized full fat milk that tastes oh so good. Soon it is clear that her bias lies with the latter. The amount of fat within the milk can be controlled to some extent by what is fed to the cow, but gone is the day when us urban dwellers received our milk daily from the milkman in glass bottles with a thin film of cream on the top.
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