Human breast milk for grown-up consumption has been taking baby steps into mainstream dairy products since New York chef Daniel Angerer's well-publicized mother's milk cheese in 2008. But this week marks a new development: The Icecreamist restaurant in London introduced Baby Gaga breast milk ice cream.
According to London's Daily Mail, "A costumed Baby Gaga waitress serves the ice cream in a martini glass filled with the breast milk ice cream mix. Liquid nitrogen is then poured into the glass through a syringe." Made with breast milk, Madagascar vanilla pods and lemon zest, the "radical new flavor" is pricey, around $23 dollars per scoop.
In spite of the cost, the new flavor sold out almost immediately.
The Daily Mail reports 15 women responded to an ad on London's Mumsnet website requesting the breast milk, and were offered $24 per 10 ounces of milk."It wasn't intrusive at all to donate," said Victoria Hiley, 35, who responded to the call, "just a simple blood test. What could be more natural than fresh, free-range mother's milk in an ice cream?"
I'm thrilled to hear the mother's are "free range", but I digress ...
Although Icecreamist founder Matt O'Connor came up with the idea while seeking a way to "completely reinvent" a classic dessert and "liberate the world one lick at a time," chef Angerer was simply looking for a way to avoid waste. He wrote on his blog that he and his wife had had an abundance of frozen breast milk on hand for their new daughter and their freezer was running out of space. "To throw it out would be like wasting gold."
Anyone who has ever pumped breast milk knows exactly what he's talking about.
Although there was no law preventing the New York restaurateur from selling breast milk-based cheese, the New York City Health Department was not supportive.
More recently, New York University student Miriam Simun created three breast-milk based cheeses as a project for the University's Interactive Technology Program.
"Human cheese is initially a pretty shocking concept to most people," admitted Simun in an interview with Canadian-based National Post, "Many people feel uncomfortable because they don't know the woman or what she is eating, but the women that participated [in the project] shared their diets, their feelings, some biographical information. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a cheese where you can know this much about the cow."
Simun found her suppliers (from New York and cheese capital, Wisconsin) at an online marketplace for breast milk where the going rate runs about $2 per ounce.
Admittedly, the response to Simun's work has been mixed. In an interview with Food and Tech Connect, Simun said reaction, "runs the gambit. Everything from this is such a great idea to this is the most disgusting thing I've ever seen. Overall, response has been pretty overwhelmingly positive, which I didn't really expect."
Simun was in for another surprise as well. "There's a whole culture that exists around making food with breast milk -- women make bread, yogurt, ice cream, soup ... you name it. I never expected it."
Heather Anderson told WalletPop she has been making breast milk soap for about a year. A maker of vegan soaps for more than a decade, Anderson said, "I started making [breast milk soap] when I realized my son wasn't interested in taking a bottle. I'd been pumping to stockpile my milk, but when the milk exceeded three months in my freezer or had been heated and rejected by the baby, I just couldn't bring myself to throw it out. So I decided to use it in my soap."
Anderson said she'd seen recipes for goat's milk soap and figured human milk would work just as well. "My early milk had such a high fat content that it was like triple-cream and the soap from this milk is super-fatted, extra nourishing to the skin." At present, the artisan is back to making dairy-free soap but jokes she might reconsider after her son is weaned, "so I can keep eating an extra 500 calories a day!"
Simun finds the breast milk subculture encouraging. "It's great to know that I'm not too off base with human cheese -- in some ways, I'm just bringing a niche food product to the mainstream. Kind of like caviar."
Yeah. Just like caviar ...
Is it possible for a cottage industry to spring up around breast milk? Would cash-strapped women choose to pump for pay instead of feeding their own kids?
Simun says, "The ethics question is a complicated one that I don't have the answer to. I actually struggle a lot with this issue. Many people have asked me if I plan on starting a human cheese business, or suggest that I do. What would that mean? I am currently producing ethically-sourced, boutique human cheese --if it were for sale it would be incredibly expensive.
WalletPop called Angerer's restaurant, Klee Brasserie in New York to see if mother's milk cheese was still on the menu, "definitely not." In fact, it hasn't been served in more than a year. Current cheese plates feature raw sheep's milk, double cream cow's milk and pasteurized buffalo milk, for the adventurous.
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