A HISTORY OF CHEESE
Here at Partake's cheese counter, we believe that the history of cheese is vital to fully appreciating the cheese world. Cheese is a huge part of culture(cheese pun!) world-wide, having a rich history and some unusual origins. In both everyday meals and artisan tasting, cheese is a necessary component in the everyday life of nearly every society in the world. Though its true origins are unknown, the first records of simple, fresh cheeses began to appear shortly after sheep and goats were domesticated nearly 11,000 years ago. There is also archaeological evidence of cheesemaking as old as 7,000 years in Sumerian and Mesopotamian civilizations. Even ancient Egyptians and pre-Roman cultures practiced cheesemaking more than 3,000 years ago.
Cheesemaking as an artform however, seems to have originated during the Roman era. As the Romans conquered more and more territory, they discovered local delicacies; cheeses made in different styles as learned ancestrally by the locals. Many cheese types that we're familiar with today, are actually named after the region they were created in. Brie, for example, is from the Brie region in France.
Today, artisan cheesemaking still thrives worldwide despite the many challenges that modern day society faces. The general outlook of 'all germs are bad' has presented a great challenge in the cheesemaking industry, as cheese relies on bacteria in order to exist. Cheesemakers adjust their procedures to meet the requirements, but there are many types of cheeses still prevalent in other countries that we cannot make and serve in the United States due to laws regarding food processing. Despite these challenges, there are over 2,000 cheesemaking facilities both large and small here in the United States, and in 2019 we managed to snag our very first 'Best Cheese In The World' award with Southern Oregon's very own Rogue River Blue, made by Rogue Creamery.
So why is cheese so delicious and even a bit addicting?
An amino acid, whose name comes from the Greek root 'tyros', which means cheese. Amino acids are the building blocks of many important proteins that are crucial for a happy body and mind. Our bodies cannot produce Tyrosine, so the only way to get it is by ingesting it.
By this sentence, I am sure you have guessed that cheese contains it in high volume. They're a part of cheese's main protein, which is called casein. When we eat cheese, our bodies break down the casein proteins and absorb the tyrosine into our bloodstreams.
Hmm, that can't be the only reason why cheese makes me happy, is it? You're right, it's not! Casein plays another important role.
When our bodies break down the Casein, we get another very important chemical out of it as well... Casomorphin, which is naturally occurring opioid. That's right, in the same family as morphine and heroin. So when people call cheese their drug of choice they may only be partially joking.
So what is it about Tyrosine and Casomorphin that makes us feel happier? You've likely heard of a part of the brain called the olfactory bulb, which is primarily responsible for sense of smell. It produces a large concentration of an enzyme called the tyrosine hydroxylase, which, you guessed it, reacts with tyrosine amino acids to produce some very important neurotransmitters: adrenaline, norepinephrine, and dopamine. All of which play an important role in overall mental and physical well being. Fighting depression, stress responses, ability to focus, and even the simple and most important of them all: happiness.
As if you needed more reasons to understand why cheese has become such an important part of our culture, Tyrosine is also a gameplayer in some types of hormones, that are used to treat Parkinson's and other similar later-life ailments. It also helps protect against sun damage, and helps produce insulin in your body. There are a great many studies in fact that proudly proclaim that regularly consuming cheese can lead to a longer, healthier, and happier life and it's not hard to see why.
So go forth and enjoy your cheese, and think happily about the proteins doing their job to help make your day just a little bit better for it.