Cheese made from human toe jam, belly-button bacteria

If you're not prone to queasiness, then go ahead and read about artisanal cheeses crafted by scientists from the nose, toe, mouth, and belly-button bacteria of notable people.

Cheese from Ben Wolfe
This cheese is crafted with the toe bacteria from microbiologist Ben Wolfe. Christina Agapakis/Sissel Tolaas

What makes a truly fine blue cheese so spectacular can be partly due to particular kinds of bacteria that are encouraged to grow on it. Now, imagine if those bacteria came from someplace unusual... like food author Michael Pollan's belly button. Yep, you get human-flavored cheese. Hungry yet?

Cheese from Michael Pollan
Care for a slice of Michael Farmhouse Cheese? Christina Agapakis/Sissel Tolaas

Scientist Christina Agapakis and scent specialist Sissel Tolaas came together for a project that combines art and synthetic biology. They collected bacteria samples from donors and used them to create unique cheeses for each person.

The Selfmade project is described as "a series of 'microbial sketches,' portraits reflecting an individual's microbial landscape in a unique cheese." Sculptor Olafur Eliasson offered up his tears, art curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist gave a nose swab, and Pollan contributed a swab from his toes.

Even cheesemaker Seana Doughty got her own cheese using a swab from her mouth. The sampled microbes were allowed to grow on various cheese rinds, generating some very different cheeses. Doughty expressed her hope that a cheese made from her bacteria would be "flavorful and a little bit funky."

Apapakis told Dezeen the cheeses smell and taste like the body odors of the people the bacteria came from. That's right. We've just escalated human cheese to human-body-odor cheese.

Agapakis and Tolaas hope to show how little difference there is between bacteria on the human body, which we are constantly trying to wipe out with cleaning products, and bacteria in the cheese we eat all the time. Selfmade is currently part of an exhibit at the Science Gallery in Dublin.

If you could make a cheese from any famous person's belly-button bacteria, who would you choose? I'm thinking of a nice cave-aged George Takei called Lieutenant Blue-lu. Perhaps Patrick Stewart would allow us to make a Captain Parmesan to go on a cheese plate alongside a Commander Raclette from Jonathan Frakes.

 

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