Inspired by a talk for the Friends of the Library from Humphrey Errington on the Social History of Cheese, some cheesey thoughts from our collection.
Probably the earliest mention is from Maison Rustique, 1600, which describes Cheese of all sorts, and where cheese making is obviously the woman's domain:
"As concerning the making of cheese: she shall choose the most grosse and fat milke, being pure and newly drawn, to make cheese that will keep a long time, and of such milke she shall gather neither butter nor creame; but such as it commeth from the cowe, such shall be put into vessels to coagulate and turne to curds... but chieflie and above all other things, it is required that the maidens that shall meddle with the making of the cheese should be cleanly, fit for the purpose, their sleeves from about their hands and arms foulded up."
Later, in Chambers Information for the People (1842) is mostly technical,
describing the proper preparation of Rennet using the maw of a freshly
killed calf. There is also a lengthy description of the making of
Parmesan and other kinds of cheese, and equally detailed production notes for the newly
fashionable Dunlop Cheese from Ayrshire.
But our Enclycopedia Britannica of 1801 strikes a cautionary note: Physicians condemn its too free use in general as a kind of food considering it fit only for "the laborious or those with strong digestive organs". This seems good advice when taken with the other suggested use:
"When shaved thin and properly treated with hot water it forms a very strong cement when mixed with quicklime."