Open Cell, a group of scientists and cheesemakers, have prepared 'Human Cheese' from the bacteria on the skin of celebrities for an exhibition called 'Food: Bigger Than A Plate'
Cheesemaking is truly one of the world's finest culinary delights, and its close resonance with winemaking gives it an added boost of pleasure. That being said, we've heard all kinds of cheeses, from standard to exotic to bizarre. Cow's or goat's milk would be considered standard, camel's or sheep would be exotic whereas an elephant's or Rhino would be bizarre.
But now, we have 'Human Cheese', yes you heard that right, human cheese, made from the bacteria on the skin of famous UK personalities, how about that for a mix of bizarre and exotic.
This "human cheese" is made from celebrity armpit bacteria https://t.co/H3rpVR85hg pic.twitter.com/4OmC0CqKeJ— NDTV (@ndtv) June 24, 2019
The human cheese, which is part of an exhibition called the Food: Bigger Than A Plate, is "made from microbes collected from British celebrities" reported the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
Sounds gross? Well, these cheeses were made to challenge the aversion people have towards microbial foods. The museum said that "making 'human cheese' is a fascinating journey into the world of microbes, from their culinary importance to the vital role they play in how our bodies work."
Couldn’t sleep, and found out people make cheese out of human breast milk. Was even being served in NYC restaurant till the government shut it down 😜. Would you eat it ? 😜🤯😯🤔💗⭐️🧀 pic.twitter.com/PbIQgmthAR— 🕳 (@Insertnameplea) June 29, 2019
As explained in a museum blog post, the cheese is prepared by first transforming the milk into curds by using bacteria. This determines whether the cheese will ripen into cheddar or gouda.
But what makes this particular venture especially intriguing is that the cheese producers found that many of the bacteria used to make regular cheese are similar to the ones found on human skin, a reason why the scent of stinky feet is sometimes similar to that of a stinky cheese variant.
Some of the celebrities who have been used as 'ingredients' for this cheese are Alex James, bassist of the band Blur, celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, British Bake-off runner-up Ruby Tandoh and singer Suggs .
For the project, dubbed 'Selfmade', scientists harvested bacteria from these celebrities and developed unique cheeses for each person. Alex James was Cheshire cheese, Heston Blumenthal's was Comte cheese, Ruby Tandoh's was Stilton and Suggs' became Cheddar.
The project aims to demonstrate how living organisms that exist in the body also exist in food, and vice versa, and how microbiology can be used to harness and manipulate such organisms to create synthetic microbes with enhanced properties.
This idea is not the first of its kind, a few years ago, bacteria from personalities like artist Olafur Eliasson, Hans Ulrich Obristand and Michael Pollan had been used to make human cheese as part of an exhibition about synthetic biology. American scientist Christina Agapakis and Norwegian scent expert Sissel Tolaas collected bacteria from Obrist's nose, Eliasson's tears and Pollan's belly button and used them to make cheeses.
Since all cheese is made by adding bacteria to milk to curdle it, and some of that bacteria is remarkably similar to the bacteria created by the human body (ever notice stinky feet can sometimes smell like stinky cheese?) the idea seemed really natural for the team that produced it.
According to the museum, the cheeses, are now being sequenced in the lab to find out exactly what species of bacteria they contain and whether they are edible in terms of food safety.
The reason behind the creation of human cheese was to reframe microbes, the museum told reporters. “As scientists develop new techniques for studying microbes, the popular assumption that they are only a source of harm or embarrassment (unwanted smells) is giving way to a much more complex understanding of the extraordinary things they do for us,” a museum spokesperson said.
The museum decided not to make samples of the human cheese. They will soon be sent back to the lab to determine whether the bacteria are safe for consumption.