Reviews for Milk : A Local and Global History


Booklist Reviews 2011 July #1
Valenze's cultural and social history of milk illustrates the remarkable ubiquity of cows' milk and milk products in the West. Long revered in India, milk took centuries to become not just accepted elsewhere but even regarded as possibly the perfect food. Before the twin technologies of pasteurization and refrigeration, milk in its natural state was often suspect as a vector for illness to anyone not in immediate proximity to a cow, goat, or sheep. The only way to transport milk any distance safely was to convert it to cheese. With scholarly precision, Valenze recounts the stories of such worthies as Gail Borden, who industrialized the production of condensed milk. She also quotes widely from historical and literary sources. Her documentation of milk's transformation into the modern product that underpins today's hugely diverse dairy-products industry offers some insights and precedents useful in helping address current food-supply concerns. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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Choice Reviews 2011 December
Joining authors of a number of recent books on the culture and history of milk, historian Valenze (Barnard College) takes readers on a well-paced journey from prehistory to the contemporary world. Although labeled a "local and global history," the book follows a conventional path, beginning in the familiar ancient world of Greeks and Romans, shifting to Northern Europe, particularly Holland and England through the Enlightenment, and ending up in the US for the industrialization of milk. The author focuses on liquid milk as a beverage, with shorter excursions into milk products such as cheese and butter, and she returns often to the way milk consumption was connected to beliefs about digestion and health. Along the way, Valenze introduces readers to a large cast of characters, from Romulus and Remus to Gail Borden. The book is at turns entertaining and well-textured history, but too many details and superficial tangents bog it down. Andrea Wiley's Re-imagining Milk (CH, Aug'11, 48-7009) is stronger on the global aspect and nutrition, and E. Melanie DuPuis's Nature's Perfect Food (CH, Sep'02, 40-0327) tells more about the economics and politics of how milk became a staple of the US diet. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. Copyright 2011 American Library Association.

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