Cheese science!

We’ve been getting snow after snow this month, and have lost several days at the office (as well as heat in our building!) due to inclement weather. One afternoon, as the snow steadily fell outside and I reminded my student workers that they ought to leave early if they were driving, one of them mentioned that her home state of Wisconsin had been experimenting with using cheese brine on the roads along with salt. It sounds very funny, of course–especially to a former Southerner who has still never purchased rock salt or a snow shovel–but it makes sense; the brine of certain cheeses has a considerable salt level, and road salt does tend to skitter around and get everywhere but the road.

I mentioned this fact at a party and someone else remembered that some other northern counties had tried something similar with beet juice–I think a byproduct from beet sugar processing. This could have easily turned into a post about turning lead into gold–I’ve read with delight about sustainable uses for spent beer grain, both as food and fuel, and wine waste in baked goods.

But instead, Twitter led me in another direction when someone I follow mentioned a study of how cheese affects your dreams. The study was done in 2005 and doesn’t seem to have been either extended or refuted since then–and fair enough, since it’s an odd and colorful little report. Apparently researchers set out to find whether eating cheese before bed could give a person nightmares; they found that most midnight cheese-eaters reported pleasant dreams, but those dreams tended to take on certain emotional tones or subjects according to what kind of cheese was eaten.
I’ve gotten out of the habit of keeping cheese in the house, but I’m tempted to experiment to see if I get similar results.
Cheese, by the way, is now thought to promote sleep rather than interfere. Like other dairy and poultry products it contains a significant amount of tryptophan.

In addition to salt and dreamy chemicals, cheese also contains microbial cultures that most of us turophiles don’t really think about when we’re enjoying the grassy notes of Tomme or a nutty Prima Donna. Thus, the idea of human cheese still strikes me as weird and kind of gross.
Don’t worry, you’re not supposed to eat it–not yet, anyway, until it’s FDA approved and all. The human cheese at the link was crafted from human belly lint and toe jam by scientists who were essentially making an art exhibit intended to provoke conversation about the hidden microscopic life of the things we eat.

An illustration from a Scientific American story about microbial cultures and cheese.

An illustration from a Scientific American story about microbial cultures and cheese.

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3 responses to “Cheese science!

  1. Pingback: Elsewhere on the Internet: The Meat We Don’t Eat | Scenes of Eating·

  2. Pingback: Elsewhere on the Internet: Globavore Dilemmas | Scenes of Eating·

  3. Pingback: Globavore Dilemmas | kissgainedwap·

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