For tens of thousands of years, humans have been domesticating other mammals — cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats, camels, llamas, donkeys, yaks, horses — and keeping them for their milk. This has generated myriad products, from yoghurt and buttermilk through butter and cheese to toffee and ice cream, in many varied, culturally specific and resourceful forms. A sign of the elemental importance of this foodstuff is that our galaxy is called the Milky Way — and indeed the word ‘galaxy’ is derived from the Greek word for milk, gala. In Ancient Greek mythology, the Milky Way was formed when Hera, the goddess of womanhood, spilled milk while breastfeeding. Each drop became a speck of light, known to us as a star.
As the distinguished food historian Mark Kurlansky tells us in his arresting new food history, numerous cultures around the globe have milk-based creation myths.