Monday, December 13, 2010

Lucian, Moon Men, and Cheese

So, today we look at that witty writer of the Second Sophistic, Lucian, and his moon men! Well, he talks about a whole bunch of different races of moon men and I just want to look at one of them now. I want to look at the ones that blow honey from their noses and sweat milk and then when the honey hits the milk it curdles and makes cheese! (True History 1.24) So, I want to know if honey can cure cheese. Not having any milk in the house with which to experiment, I did some cookbook science research instead. So, milk has a pH of 6.5. The presence of acid makes milk curdle. Milk curdles at pH 4.6. Now, as sen in a previous post, lemon juice makes milk curdle. Lemon juice has a pH of 2.3. Vinegar also makes milk curdle. Vinegar has a pH of 2.4-3.4. Honey has a pH of 3.2-4.5. Now, The actual quote is "They blow pungent honey from their noses. Whenever they work hard or sweat, they sweat milk all over their body, so that, letting a few drops of honey fall, they make (by curdling) cheeses from this." So, since 'pungent' honey is specified, I take that to mean very acidic. If a few drops of vinegar can curdle milk and vinegar and honey overlap in their ph, then this could happen! And, interestingly, since the joke appears to be that the moon men produce two fluids that form cheese when they touch, rather than that honey is a funny thing from which to make cheese, I feel we can assume the audience knew that curdling milk with honey to make cheese was something they were familiar with. So, perhaps we get some insight here into home made cheeses of the Greek world in the second century AD and their use of honey. Moon men covered in fresh cheese! This is different than a moon made of cheese ... a moon covered in people covered in cheese!

12/13 Okay, after a discussion today with the wise Matt Farmer I stand corrected. See today's post for my palinode!

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