Pastoralized Cheese (Get it?)

Though I think Kessler tries far too hard to make us see the romanticism in the goat (I thought the Biblical imagery was so ridiculous that it removed itself from consideration, come on, he’s apotheosizing goat cheese. To me it was such a stretch that it made the rest of the reading feel disingenuous), I was very impressed by the veterinary knowledge displayed in this book. What really got me was the treatment regimen the veterinarian had planned out to combat this disease at a moment’s notice, as though they’d dealt with it hundreds of times. The mechanics of that parasite are also very cool, if brutal. I’ve never been interested in biology before, so this is new for me. I am so curious about how the same parasite can coexist with one creature (And be basically undetectable) and absolutely destroy the nervous system of another. What’s special here? Is it the parasite or the host? I have to assume it’s a combination of both. Can any biology background people provide specifics on that for me?

Anyways, I think what I’m trying to say is that I normally think of animals being so much more fragile than we are—most of them can’t even deal with chocolate (I, on the other hand, couldn’t live without it). In my experience animals get sick, they rarely get better. Hearing how Lizzie the goat lived through that awful (and still cool) parasite has changed my opinion on this. Other mammals aren’t any less durable than we are, they just have different tolerances. It’s a truly complex dynamic. But it’s more than that. We’re never as different or as unique as we’d like to believe—reading the description of the goat kid separated from its group of friends reminded me why I don’t like parties. We’re all social animals. The similarities were so pronounced that I found myself applying personality traits to the different goats. I think Kessler intends for us to do this because he always refers to them by name rather than as goats. He also describes their actions using words that could also apply to people—try reading a lot of these sentences as though they were people, it still makes sense.

I guess I can’t really talk about this reading without mentioning the milk—and by extension, the cheese. I guess it’s not surprising that people can rely so much on their animals—the Eveny showed us that. In fact, it’s easier to get behind goats than reindeer because it’s more familiar. It’s cool that these people actually make money, however much or little, off of it (I assume, it is still the US and we have property taxes unless you’re on a reservation) whereas the Eveny were more nomadic. It gives the lifestyle of the shepherd a 21st century facelift. That said, for however much Kessler tries to romanticize the practice of cheese making, I’m simply not sold on it as a religious/sacred experience. I get that he’s exaggerating for literary effect, but it comes off as a little CHEESY to me. Ha! I’ve been waiting this entire post to say that. It feels good. It feels so good.


5 thoughts on “Pastoralized Cheese (Get it?)

  1. I’m resisting the temptation to title my next post, “Apotheosis of Goat Cheese”! Seriously, I think if you had ever eaten “the real thing” (fresh, homemade chevre), you would wholeheartedly endorse Kessler’s devotion to this amazing comestible. I agree that the parasite that afflicts Lizzy offers a fascinating counterpoint to the kinds of creature-creature relationships we focus on for most of the class. And I’m counting on the bio people to tell us more. As I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m thoroughly enjoying Rob Dunn’s book (The Wild Life of Our Bodies) about the predators and parasites that shape our humanity (and determine our health as individuals). I’m searching for a corny ending to this comment but for now the cheesiness of this post will have to stand on its own. 😉

  2. I was intrigued by the meningeal worm fiasco in this book as well. There are many examples in nature of animals developing resistance to parasitic invaders overtime through mutations and evolution. Often times it can be due to a sort of quarantining of the parasite in portions of the body that prevent it from harming vital organs or nerves. It appears that the white tailed deer has created a pathway that safely transfers the parasite through its digestive system and into a pocket of its nervous system where it can grow and reproduce without harm to the deer. When it has finished its development the deer simply passes the worm allowing it to start another life cycle. The worm does not want to harm its host as it requires the conditions provided in a healthy deer central nervous system to survive, so it has evolved over time as well to cause minimal damage to its host. The issue that arises when the worm is eaten by an animal other than a deer is that the different host, for example the goat, does not have the pathway developed to move the worm safely through its body. As a result the worms get lost in the body and just end up floating around until they get stuck in the hosts spinal cord and brain where there development results in inflammation that leads to paralysis and death if left untreated. The worm population exponentially grows in the foreign host because it never get expelled as they do in the deer due to the pathway that has developed. So essentially the meningeal worm and the deer have developed a sort of commensalism over years of evolution together, and other animals have not which results in a parasitic relationship instead. There may be more to this parasite than what I have mentioned her but this is at least a little more specific than what Kessler says in the book.

  3. I’m laughing at the end of this post. I agree about how he fantasized and the “art” of milk and cheese making. I am hoping these few replies I have been posting about the “cheesiness” of his writing implies a sarcastic tone on my blog this week. Although he definitely defined and described the milk and cheese process which was interesting information on its own.

    I haven’t really thought about the tolerances of animals that much until you brought that point up. That’s quite a definitive trait, to be tolerant of what you need to survive.

  4. Your jokes almost make me want to abandon my search for ancient humanity-engineering aliens and go live on a goat farm just to be punny. Did it seem to you that Kessler didn’t really make this lifestyle change for the goats? It read to me as if he was just looking for a place to (for lack of a better word) chill, and after realizing he needed money, decided to write about the only thing around: goats. I agree with you on the cheese making. I mean, cheese is good and all, but to paraphrase Hugh Laurie on House – anything that you excrete as waste a day after you eat it isn’t sacred.

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