Stinky, robust, smelly cheese—some of us love it, others are scared of it. Well, here’s a fact that the “I hate smelly cheese” party might find seriously unappealing: The organisms that exist in the body, including armpit and foot bacteria, are the same as those that exist in food (and vice versa).
It makes sense, then, that biologist Christina Agapakis and odor expert Sissel Tolaas would use human bacteria to craft cheeses. “The pair enlisted figures including author Michael Pollan and artist Olafur Eliasson to donate their bacteria to the cheesy cause, in the forms of tears, belly button junk and nose scrapings,” reports The Huffington Post. The human donor’s skin bacteria served as the cheese starter cultures, which shaped a unique odor for the cheese. The cheeses actually taste and smell like the bodies from which they came.
The cheeses were part of “Grow Your Own,” an exhibition at the Dublin Science Gallery. Although the human cheese was not meant to be eaten, visitors were allowed to sniff the cheese art.
The Guardian was reporting straight from the Grow Your Own exhibit, where things predictably got a little smelly:
“A ripe round of brie sits next to a block of farmhouse cheddar, emitting a pungent aroma not dissimilar to the musky whiff found at the bottom of a laundry basket. ‘That one comes from my armpit,’ says Daisy Ginsberg, pointing to the brie. ‘The other one comes from the artist’s mouth.’ There is a third block, labelled Ben’s Natural Rind Cheese. I don’t want to ask where that comes from.”
So what were these mad human cheese-makers trying to achieve, besides the production of seriously stinky cheese? They were questioning why an odor which is considered gross when it comes from our bodies is thought of as desirable when it emits from a cheese. “Can knowledge and tolerance of bacterial cultures in our food improve tolerance of the bacteria on our bodies?” asked Agapakis.
The Science Gallery in Dublin also gave a workshop on human cheese-making last week. Needless to say, we’re more than a little sad we missed the chance to make First We Feast armpit brie.