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Milk!: A 10,000-Year Food Fracas

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  164 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
Mark Kurlansky's first global food history since the bestselling Cod and Salt; the fascinating cultural, economic, and culinary story of milk and all things dairy--with recipes throughout.

According to the Greek creation myth, we are so much spilt milk; a splatter of the goddess Hera's breast milk became our galaxy, the Milky Way. But while mother's milk may be the essence
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published May 8th 2018 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Mark Kurlansky, and Bloomsbury (USA) Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

I remember an advertising campaign from my youth that extolled the virtues and health benefits of drinking milk. It stuck with me and I have tried to present the same positive outlook to my son. When I saw the latest Mark Kurlansky book, all about the history of milk, I could not help but wonde
Kurlansky is justly famous for his earlier works about Salt and Cod, among other things, so when I saw this 2018 Bloomsbury Publishing nonfiction about Milk, I was interested. I was particularly interested to see what he would say about humans consuming milk after infancy, when approximately sixty percent of the world's human population appear to lose their tolerance for and ability to digest lactose. Europeans, Middle Easterners, North Africans and some of the Indian subcontinent appear to lack ...more
Mich Must Read
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for this ARC.

We luxuriate in the richness of yummy butter, or at least I do. There is nothing more delicious to me than a simple croissant, flaky dough that has been laboriously layered with butter, and a cup of coffee. But apparently in certain cultures, I would be called a “butter stinker”. It’s these little tid-bits that I enjoyed in Milk. Milk is a social history that ignites a thoughtful conversation for such a simple product. It follows the
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

I have to have milk with breakfast unless I am getting breakfast at work. But at home, a glass milk, cold milk, and then coffee. I need that nice cool glass of milk.

But I didn’t know much about milk until I read this book.

Kurlansky’s book is a tour of milk in history, but also a tour of yogurt, cheese, and ice cream.

And it has recipes!

Kurlansky starts with ancient history, exploring when milking first developed as well as pointing out that being lactose intolera
I'm a huge fan of Kurlansky. He's probably the most famous writer of microhistories currently, a genre I adore. Microhistories he's written include "Salt" and "Paper", books on oysters and cod, a history of just the year 1968 or the song “Dancing in the Street". You get the idea.

In this book, he takes on milk. Or, well, not only milk; Kurlansky also covers butter, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and all the other things that can be made out of milk. It's not just cows' milk either! He includes recipe
Thanks to netgalley for providing me with a Kindle edition galley of this book.

I have read Kurlansky's Salt: A World History, and actually enjoyed this one much more. Not surprisingly, he uses a similar writing style. Much more of this book, however, focuses on post-1800 history, and on the US. Few cultures really drank milk before the 19th century, and most milk went to cheese and yogurt on a small-scale local basis.

I have also read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, but had no idea there was a simi
Dawn Betts-Green (Dinosaur in the Library)
This was an ok read. The first half or so was difficult to slog through because of formatting. Kurlansky includes a ridiculous number of recipes in the early chapters, and while recipes are certainly important to food history, they were poorly integrated. The text was choppy and topics jumped wildly between some paragraphs. The later half of the book was much better—but there were no recipes there. Interesting topic, but not as well put together as his other work. Also not entirely sure what was ...more
Lance L
May 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
"... a book with 126 recipes..."

Almost stream of consciousness rambling broken occasionally by repeated recitations of centuries or millennia old “recipes” which only serve to encrenulate the monotony. I loved Cod. I really liked Salt. I thought Paper was sort of phoned in. This book feels more like it was cut and pasted and forwarded in by tweet.

Full disclosure - could not take it any more. Quit after 4 chapters.
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mark Kurlansky is one of the best writers of social/anthropological history, and Milk! continues his success. The history of milk is fascinating and Kurlansky makes it accessible to the public without it being too dry, from the modern dairy industry to different uses of milk around the world. There are some interesting recipes too!

Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury USA for an advanced copy of this book.
Holly Senecal
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
As someone who lives in dairy country in Vermont I was curious how Mark Kurlansky would handle the industry in his book. It was a great history lesson and quite interesting.
Another excellent microhistory from my favorite microhistory author.
Rhonda Lomazow
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wonderful look a trip through the history of Milk fulll of facts and delicious yummy recipes.Thanks # NetGalley #bloomsbury for advance copy.
Steven Minniear
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up-on-this
Not one of Kurlansky’s best, in my opinion. While I kind of liked his use of recipes within the text, I just could not get myself into this book. I was so unhappy with it that I returned it to the bookstore.
Nick Ertz
May 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
There is a lot of time to cover. This is not an exciting book, too much "and then this and then that" to make it very engaging. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that milk has been debated since the beginning. First, which is better, cow or goat or camel or buffalo or... Then, why does everyone die after drinking this milk? Yet, who doesn't like a good piece of cheese?
Miriam Downey
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Remember the advertising campaign, “Milk. It does a body good.” from the 80s and 90s? Or the campaign “Got Milk” where celebrities had milk mustaches? Everything milk is covered in Kurlansky’s newest study of a single food topic and its place in the cultures around the world.

Wow! Who knew that so much fascinating information could be written about such a commonplace topic as milk. Of course, I have navigated the topic in many settings over my last 75 years—from my own birth and childhood, to the
Jul 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult, nonfiction
I'm not sure if it's because I read the book instead of listening to an audiobook, or if it's because I know so much more about the topic, or because the topic was too broad, but I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as I did his other works. There were several little things that bugged me about the way they were presented that I thought misrepresented them (though of course I can't remember specifics as I right this, which is frustrating. I think something in the yogurt chapter?) I also thin ...more
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
The format of Milk shares much in common with the ambitious global food histories that Kurlansky undertakes in Salt and Cod. But here, much like with Paper he falls short of his earlier work: Even though his thesis–that milk is the most argued about food in human history–is both imaginative and provocative, his book never marshals sufficient evidence to support his argument. Instead, Kurlanksy moves through milk's history with little regard for chronology or geography; his book lacks even a rudi ...more
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
(Note: I received an advanced electronic copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley)

Master of microhistory Kurlansky once more takes a ubiquitous part of our daily livings that we never cared to think too much about if at all, and provides more information about it than I thought was imaginable.

Admittedly there are moments where this book will drag a bit. Throughout the book Kurlansky will add in blocks of relevant recipes from throughout history, as he’s done before. However, in this particular w
Jun 29, 2018 rated it liked it
If there is anything, you want to know about milk the answer is most likely in this book. If like me you haven't given much thought to milk other than pouring it in your coffee or over you breakfast cereal you might be surprised to find that Kurlansky has looked into the history of milk from antiquity until today and the role it plays in our modern lives. Whether he is examining old recipes in which milk was first used, exploring accounts of making milk safe for the masses, discussing the proces ...more
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was given an advanced copy of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I really like this kind of micro history that focuses on a single event or single topic, in this case the history of Milk. This book is a nice mix of history and historic and modern recipes so it's a bit different than some of single topic books but I really enjoyed it. The detailed uses for milk (and all dairy) across cultures, through history, is fascinating and it's interesting to see how the recipes chang
Jun 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Kurlansky is both a food historian and a master of narrative nonfiction, the genre that treats a single topic exhaustively and entertainingly. From early civilization to organic farming, from yogurt and butter and cheese, with breastfeeding and formula, cattle breeding -- he covers it all.

My delight in the book (I like the genre and I've enjoyed Kurlansky's books about cod, oysters, salt, and paper) was somewhat diminished by the choppiness of many paragraphs. Also, there are several references
Jason Paterson
Jun 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: food, non-fiction, history
I became acquainted with Kurlansky's writing when his book Salt was recommended to me. That novel was so expertly crafted, I found myself being amazed by interesting history just about every paragraph. It's the type of story you would want to return to several times. Milk! is written in much the same style, but isn't quite that engaging in practice. This may be because Kurlansky has peppered the book with a greater number of recipes, or it may just be that the history of Milk and dairy products ...more
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food, non-fiction
This was very, very interesting and covers (almost) all things milk from cultural use to recipes to dairy farming to everything in-between. That really isn't an exaggeration. I think the only thing missing that I do wish was covered was the different in how governments manage milk, as in the quota system of Canada versus America and how it impacts trade and economy. On the other hand, it was interesting seeing the history of how different recipes came about, and what some of those recipes involv ...more
Patrick Pilz
May 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Mark Kurlansky writes history books on some of the most mundane stuff: Salt, Paper and Cod to name a few. I lovedall these books, so I was very intrigued by one about milk. The dairy industry is certainly a target market in my profession. I was a little disappointed, but probably just because is compared this book to the previously published. It is comparatively short, filled with at times to lengthy and detailed recipes, which seem to be more like fillers to make the book complete.

It still prov
Tammy Buchli
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very entertaining history of milk (and dairy in general). Very readable, not at all dry or pedantic. Seemed very well researched, with an extensive bibliography. Poorly cited, though, since the author chose not to do footnotes. While I understand this was probably in the interests of keeping the book accessible for the general reading public, I found that to be a flaw. A bibliography isn't enough for me in a book of this nature -- I like to know where exactly where a particular claim or quote or ...more
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars rounded up. Full of fascinating facts conveyed in an easy to read story like way. I never knew donkey's milk is closest to human milk - but donkey's don't like being milked! The history of milk and milk products, like yogurt and cheese, is covered from multinational points of view. Many recipes are included. I especially got a kick out of the older recipes - and am grateful for our modern day grocery stores and cheese makers.

The book is very complete, covering everything from breast fe
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm a total fan girl over Mark Kurlansky, so much so, that I would almost be throwing underwear at him, just to encourage him to write a history of underwear. As always, Kurlansky delivered with this book. I was totally fascinated throughout, and learned so much about the history of milk (wait until you read about its use in early communion). Plus, where else are you going to hear the phrase "monkey dairies" mentioned?
The only drawback to his books are hiding them from my oldest daughter long e
Jun 21, 2018 rated it liked it
I hesitated to give this tale three stars - overall it was closer to a two. Kurlansky’s writing remains interesting, though I found him to be slightly repetitive in this latest work. The larger problem is the sheer number of recipes in the book - there must be nearly as much text dedicated to recipes as there is to the writing. I usually fly though his books, but this one was more of a slog. A reluctant and slightly resentful hike between the interesting tidbits that make this book worth picking ...more
Stuart Miller
May 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-cpl-copy
Lots of interesting facts and details about milk--its history, production, uses, cultural aspects, etc. worldwide (although there is little on Latin America). Unfortunately, it suffers from the lack of a single narrative arc. Organizing it by historical periods or geographic areas would have made for a better read. Still, there is a lot here of interest to anyone interested in food history and, for the adventurous cook, the author reproduces many period recipes from classical times to modern day ...more
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Very interesting history. Did you know you can't turn human breast milk into cheese? And did you know that milk wasn't drunk for the longest time, just used to make cheese, butter and yogurt? And if you think about it, people think nothing of drinking cow's milk but wouldn't think of ever entertaining the possibility of drinking human breast milk. Well, regular milk is a cow's breast milk. It's a really entertaining story with a bunch of old and weird recipes enclosed.
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Mark Kurlansky (born 7 December 1948 in Hartford, Connecticut) is a highly-acclaimed American journalist and writer of general interest non-fiction. He is especially known for titles on eclectic topics, such as cod or salt.

Kurlansky attended Butler University, where he harbored an early interest in theatre and earned a BA in 1970. However, his interest faded and he began to work as a journalist in
More about Mark Kurlansky

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“The big culprit is methane gas, which, although it does not get as much attention as carbon dioxide, is more than twenty times as destructive in terms of climate change.” 0 likes
“Cows are the leading source of hamburger meat in America. Dairy cows are very lean because they put everything into producing milk, so they make good lean ground meat.” 0 likes
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