I am waiting to meet my next project partners as a precaution after travel. Challenging times. Surreal. It is incredible that a tiny biological component can cause such chaos and spread so easily through our bodies. 

I have been making cheese for a while now and during that time I  have gotten used to the fear of bacteria and all things pathogen. Cheese is a living thing, it  develops and gets its texture and taste when certain microbial communities thrive in fresh milk. Yet there is always the chance that certain microbes dominate this process that are detrimental to our health. Eating such cheese can make us sick.

Working in the modern cheese room is therefore a constant balancing of microbial negotiation. As a supporter of raw milk cheese, I believe the naturally occurring microbial communities in milk are highly diverse and will contribute to a rich and complex cheese. The diversity of these communities, I believe will  contribute to the diversity of our gut community and make us possibly better equipped to curb any pathogen seeking to go viral. What is clear is that these microbial communities play a crucial role in our lives, in our health. They are part of us, without them we cannot live. Paradoxically, what is also becoming clear, that we really don’t know much about how important and powerful they are. We have compromised our immune systems by eradicating many of our bodily inhabitants, diminishing our internal biodiversity that helps us manage unwanted guests.

Work in the cheese room in our current times, is a bit schizophrenic. On the one hand we wish to nurture microbial life (in milk), while on the other hand, we want to eradicate all microbial life that occupies its surroundings. This we try to accomplish through frequent hand washing, and vigorously cleaning every surface on which any milk or cheese has just passed. Continuously aware of the importance and the need to balance the biological world we cannot see or easily monitor, and the need to feed our internal – gut-  communities with microbial richness for optimal immune systems.

Not only does our internal community, one of the most complex ecosystems on earth, exists of millions of bacteria, it is also includes a diverse collection of viruses that infect our own cells and those of our other inhabitants. It is one of the least understood components of our gut microbiome. What we do know, is that these viruses have an agenda, and it is not necessarily in our best interest, although they can possibly protect us against hostile bacteria. Much is to be learned.

Meanwhile, our lives are upended, not just biologically, but socially, philosophically.

I am taking a break from cheese making, but my work habits now continue, washing hands frequently, cleaning surfaces, and questioning how to best listen and respond to the signals of our bodies, the messages in our surrounding, balancing the dynamic interactions in order to stay healthy.

Keeping our internal biodiversity thriving, remember we are all connected.

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