The history of cheese
|GRECO P.D.O. BARREL AGED FETA CHEESE|
|GRECO P.D.O. FETA CHEESE|
Eight thousand years ago, both sheep and goad appeared in the Mediterranean region and the history of cheese has begun!
The first evidence of nutrition by ruminant's milk appear in Greek mythology when Jupiter hidden from his father, would be fed on milk extracted from a goat called Amaltheia.
Homer gives a detailed description of Polyphemous, the shepherd and cheese-maker Cyclop, while describing small pieces of cheese maturing in the cave.
Both Aristotle and Dioskourides have given the earliest known recipes to produce cheese. In ancient Athens, there was a designated area for the production of cheese in the market and in ancient Sparta; a whole ritual took place on the context of cheese theft that formed part of the military training.
During the Byzantine Empire in the Greek world, cheese making was considerably extended. The limited evidence we have at our disposal, refer to the "Vlachiko" most likely what is known today as "Feta" cheese and "myzethra" (a kind of salt-less soft whey cheese), after which the City of Myzethras-Mystras was named.
During the Turkish Occupation, in both mainland Greece and the Aegean islands, this tradition continued and In late19th century, the newly established modern Greek state, through its ministers, would promptly perceive the economic significance of livestock breeding and appoint Raymond Demetriades, a renown Greek cheese maker, to train new cheese makers. His task was later taken-up by cheese makers Zygouris and Polychroniades.
A National Commission of Milk was set up subsequently, promoting cheese producers' interests.
For the Greeks, contrary to Europeans, cheese is not a meal supplement; it is a meal by itself. Traditionally, in other European countries, as in France, cheese is served as a dessert, or as an appetizer as in the case of Italy (otsarela al pesto or fresh Parmesan with olive oil and rocket).
On the contrary, in Greece cheese is eaten all the time, alone, as it is, fried or cooked, as a main ingredient in a variety of dishes. There is also a cheese delicacy, “tyropita” (cheese pie) “the national snack”, derived from Greeks’ love for cheese. A flourishing industry and fortunes have been made upon and from "tyropites". Even today, after the invasion of so many foreign eating habits, there are thousands of cheese pie shops all over the country, as there is still a strong appetite for tyropita in Greece. These shops are so popular among the Greek people that enable them to resist and face on equal terms the biggest fast food chains of hamburgers, American style pizzas, etc.
Greeks usually have for breakfast a mild or salted cheese, soft hard or semi-hard, for a snack, most of the times, they have a piece of yellow or white cheese, according to taste. At lunchtime, cheese is always set on the table. It taverns, feta cheese is brought to the table before anything else, even before the wine. Cheese is served with starters, the salad, the main course, even with fruit. A memorable combination of higher gastronomical taste is feta cheese with melon or graviera cheese with “sultana” grapes.
In ancient Greece, the consumption of meat was only allowed after the animal had been sacrificed to a God and was therefore a meal for special occasions only. Milk and its products were the main addition to the otherwise vegetarian diet.
This is a dietary tradition that has continued till the late 60s. In later years, affluence and the affordable availability of meat products has partially change the eating habits of the Greeks, but the love for cheese, remain the same.
The choice has been made. Cheese is obviously cheaper than meat, even today, and provides proteins and energy, and Greece is at the top of cheese consumption, within the European Countries, amounting up to 23 kilos per year per person followed by the French, who consume 22 kilos while the Germans consume about 8-10 kilos and the Japanese only 2 kilos.