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The Microbiome And The Future Of Artisanal Gastronomy

Earlier this week, the media caught the stinky wind of a rather unique art exhibit at the Dublin Science Gallery. Called SELFMADE, the installation featured a number of cheeses made by a variety of different bacteria. While this may not seem all that strange, the fact that the bacteria came from different body parts, such as the feet, the bellybutton and armpits, suggested that this was not an ordinary cheesy experience.

This isn’t the first time that gastronomists have taken advantage of the human body to create artisanal treats. In Newport, Oregon, Rogue Ales has seen good business thanks to a unique brew known as The Beard Beer, which is made using the yeast collected from the beard of the brewmaster. In a similar manner, several restaurants and bakeries in New York have turned to the microbiome of the city instill – quite literally – the taste of the metropolis in their foods.

The growing interest in using the human and environmental microbiome as a culinary collaborator may seem to be novel but in reality, this practice has been performed for centuries. Each ecological system, whether landscape or biological, has provided a means to turn raw foods such as milk, meat and flour into delicious gourmet products. What is even more interesting is that turning to microbes may have saved many from some of today’s chronic disease problems.

The most pertinent of these microbial saviours comes from a once standard staple in our diets: sourdough. This bread is made with flour that has been fermented in a mixture of bacteria and yeasts prior to baking. When performed in the traditional way, the result is a delicious loaf that is almost entirely gluten-free. In Victoria, BC, Fry's Red Wheat Bread, is using this technique to create breads that even celiac patients can eat.

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