food & drink

Anyone for cheese?

Scientific studies show that the consumption of dairy products is of little benefit. We are the only mammals that drink milk after we've been weaned, and whether it comes from a cow, a sheep, a goat or a buffalo, it originates from another animal. Illogical as it may seem to non-milk-drinking populations, in countries like USA, Britain and Finland, milk consumption is an everyday custom. In Britain milk has for decades been delivered to homes daily, something that was either motivated by clever marketing or the best way to deal with a glut.

Dairy products are not a feature of the Mediterranean diet, nor is there an established tradition of milk and cheese consumption in southern Europe. In spite of its current popularity, Greek yoghurt has an obscure history. No, Spain and the like are definitely not milk drinkers, nor, in spite of what any restaurant or bar customer may believe, great cheese consumers. The latest statistics show Spain at #31 in the world ranking, between Chile and Uruguay, less than half the EU figure and way behind frontrunner Denmark. However, it seems unthinkable to serve an aperitif here that does not include jamón de bellota, lomo, and aged goat's or sheep's cheese. Many swear their allegiance to a daily ration of old Manchego, in spite of the adage that decrees 'Queso todos los días, pero uno al año' ('Cheese every day but only one cheese a year'). Cheese provides protein as it is composed of dairy fat with salt, but is definitely not a health food. Nutritionists insist it should not form any part of our regular diet. Even limited consumption can cause inflammation of the intestine, which in turn reduces our capacity to absorb vitamins and minerals. As an unrepentant cheese lover I have no intention of changing my habits any time soon, although there is a chink of light visible through the gloom. Unpasteurised goat's or sheep's cheese made with raw milk is said to be beneficial due to its positive effect on the development of gut bacteria.