Miriam Simun is making human cheese from the breast milk of women she found online. Would you eat it?
The project has stirred earnest interest as well as disgust. Ms. Simun, a New Yorker, says her human cheese raises questions of sustainability, biotechnology, veganism and its polar opposite, cannibalism.
"Human Cheese is in a particularly interesting place - eating human milk after you are a baby, especially from someone other than your mother, is such a huge taboo - and yet, human milk is arguably the most natural food in the world. Certainly milk meant for other animal's babies is kind of strange. Unnatural?"
Ms. Simun found her raw materials on an online marketplace where women sell and donate their milk. One woman was a local who was overproducing and didn't want the milk to go to waste; another shipped hers in ice from Wisconsin.
Ms. Sumin mixed the women's milk with cow's or goat's milk, and offers several spirited reviews on her website: "This spreadable deliciousness is a human-goat blend, made from two wonderful milks. A playful Vermont mountain goat herd milk tangos with the milk of a sweet lawyer's assistant who hails from Wisconsin and is excited to become part of what she considers a 'more acceptable and personal' cheese. Her mostly organic diet full of meat is rich in flavor and spices - and boy does it come through in this darling little cheese!"
"Many people feel uncomfortable because they don't know the woman, or what she is eating - but how often do you know the cows of your cheese, and what they are eating?" Ms. Simun said in an interview with the Food+Tech Connect blog.
"There's something really visceral and instinctual about eating - its no longer an idea to play with, but something you have to chew and swallow."
Ms. Simun's not the only one capitalizing on human mammaries.
Last March, Chef Daniel Angerer treated diners at Chelsea's Klee Brasserie to canapés of fig, Hungarian pepper -- and his wife's breast milk.
"It tastes like cow's-milk cheese, kind of sweet," he told the New York Post. (Angerer recommends it with a Riesling.)
Although New York health codes don't explicitly ban the practice, a city spokesperson told the paper, "The restaurant knows that cheese made from breast milk is not for public consumption, whether sold or given away."
Lori Mason, the canapé-filling wife in question said, "I think a lot of the criticism has to do with the combination of sex and cheese, but . . . the breast is there to make food."
Ms. Mason also pushed her husband to make gelato from her offerings.
"The culture that exists around making food with breast milk - women make bread, yogurt, ice cream, soup…you name it," Ms. Simun said.
"In some ways, I'm just bringing a niche food product to the mainstream. Kind of like caviar."