Thank you to Andrew Curry for tipping me off about this great piece on koumiss, or fermented mare’s milk. It takes you from drunken Amazons to proto-Indo-European paleolinguistics, and confirms what this lactose-intolerant already feared: horse milk is very high in lactose. It’s on Wonders and Marvels, and it’s by Adrienne Mayor of Stanford University. The ice princess who features in the Hunters and Amazons chapter of If Wishes Were Horses makes an appearance too.
Koumiss was repackaged as “milk champagne” by an enterprising health nut in 1877, and you can read his manifesto (complete with scan typos) here at Archive.org.
It has been long since noticed that certain tribes [in] Russia were completely exempt from debilitating diseases; that is to say, diseases which exhaust the strength and induce emaciation, as phthisis pulmonalis, chronic broncitis, chlorosis, anemia, etc. Their fortunate immunity attracted the attention of physicians, already awakened by the popular reports, which attributed to the daily use of Koumiss, the excellent health of these people, notwithstanding the detestable climatic and hygienic condition in which they lived. …
Koumiss is a white lactescent liquid, with a characteristic odor resembling that of whey, with a lightly assidulous and biting taste, savoring somewhat of buttermilk. It leaves a fresh and agreeable after-taste, is more effervescent than champagne, and when poured out becomes covered with an abundant foam, white as snow, overreaching the glass.
Only 13% of Americans would consider eating horse meat (almost twice the percentage who would eat dog), whereas 34% would consider alligator lasagna (KTAR)
Groups in Oklahoma want to build a horse abattoir. (SFGate.com and Fox23.com) As does a business in Roswell, New Mexico (Koat.com) And a Philly restaurant wants to add horse meat to the menu (Consumerist)
Grub Street suggests 20 places to eat horse, including locavore horse lasagna in Scotland. (Grub Street)
A visit to a Kazakh horse meat market (NPR) and a visit to a Polish horse sale (Baltimore Sun)
In the merry-go-round that is the international, industrialised food chain, an Irish slaughterhouse sent “beef” to the Czech Republic which was in fact horse. (USA Today)
A German politician and clergyman are drubbed for saying that the rejected horse-beef food should be given to the poor. (The Local)
Russia threatens to suspend horse meat imports from the EU – something of a joke given that they continue to import possibly bute-laced horse meat from the USA. (Fox News)
Could the incorrect labelling have begun in Romania after all? Mislabelled horse meat found in the country (Bloomberg)
China reacts to the horse meat scandal (Bloomberg)
Meanwhile, I have more local news stories about neglected horses in the US than I can load up here.
Non-meat-related uses for horses: a California teen escapes gang culture through his horse. The pastor who helped Dawan Whitmore get riding lessons comments: “He learned how to feed the horse every day twice a day, rain or shine. Forget football practice, forget all those other things. It teaches him a great deal of responsibility. Not to mention self worth.” (23ABC News)
Saudi archaeologists are challenging the new theory that the earliest solid evidence for horse domestication was found in north east Kazakhstan, among the relics of the Bronze Age Botai peoples. They believe that they’ve found traces of horse taming in al-Maqar, dating back 9,000 years – approx. 4,000 years older than the Botai material.
This BBC report doesn’t mention anything like the carefully examined Kazakh artefacts (which included traces of mare’s milk fat in pottery, ‘bit wear’ on horses’ molars and layers of dung in a stable or paddock). I shall investigate further…
The Guardian reports on a Newcastle University study to be published in the Journal of Dairy Science this month and notes, among other things, that we should be drinking donkey milk as it’s higher in protein and lower in fat than cow milk.
In the nineteenth century physicians believed that donkey milk helped to cure tuberculosis, and milch jennies were kept in Berkeley Square in Mayfair for wealthy consumptives. I’m not sure if it was effective; the only snippet that comes to mind is the fact that mare’s milk is closer to human breast milk in composition than cow milk is. Also, how much milk does one get out of a donkey? And would one have to resort to the ancient Scythian practice of putting a blow-pipe to the lady equid’s, er, parts, to bring the milk down?
If you don’t fancy drinking donkey milk, you can always do a Cleopatra and bathe with it. The Swiss firm Câlinesse has an entire range of donkey-based cosmetics from moisturiser to bust firmer to eye cream. Naturally it is taken only from very happy donkeys.
Lactose intolerants beware though: it contains considerably more lactose than cow milk.
11.11.2012 Update: donkey cheese is the most expensive in the world, at £800 per kilogram. This fact courtesy of this Telegraph image of a Serbian woman milking a donkey.