British museum displays cheese made from navel bacteria of celebrities

Photo: IPGGutenbergUKLtd (iStock), TimAwe (iStock)

London’s Victoria And Albert Museum (commonly called the V&A Museum) is currently hosting an exhibition succinctly called “FOOD: Bigger than the Plate.” According to the museum’s website, the exhibit “brings together the politics and pleasure of food to ask how the collective choices we make can lead to a more sustainable, just and delicious food future.” Sounds pretty cool! Let’s all go to the museum and then hit Idris Elba’s bar after. In this exhibit, five cheeses will be on display. What makes these cheeses special, you might ask? Well, they were all made from the bacteria of famous people.

None of that is a typo! The roster includes chef Heston Blumenthal, British rapper Professor Green, Suggs (of the band Madness), The Great British Baking Show’s Ruby Tandoh, and Alex James, the former bassist for Blur, who is also a cheesemaker. These “unique microbial portraits” means that James is now a Cheshire, Tandoh a Stilton, Suggs a cheddar, Blumenthal a comté, and Green a mozzarella.

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This portion of the exhibit, called “Selfmade” (get it?), was conceived by a biologist and a smell researcher, and led by a team consisting of a bio-designer, a chef, and a scientist, who hope to “educate the public and challenge cultural squeamishness about bacteria.” To make it happen, the bio-designer, Helene Steiner, took bacteria samples from the skin of the five subjects—specifically, from their armpits, noses, and navels—then used microbiology to take those teeny tiny bits and make them into starter culture. They were then combined with fresh, pasteurized milk, aged appropriately, and voila, cheese.

Yes, the display will be refrigerated. Science!

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Allison Shoemaker

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves television, bourbon, and dramatically overanalyzing social interactions.