From the Sandbox: Respect the Camel: In Search of Unsung… Cheese? By Brock LeMieuxDecember 3rd, 2010 by Noor Bin Ladin
Every day, our community manager, Noor Bin Ladin, reads through her feed of all Sandboxers’ blog posts. Every week, she chooses the most inspiring, funny or brilliant ones and reposts them on this blog. This post was written by Sandboxer Brock LeMieux, who joined Sebastian Lindstrom and the WTYSL Team on their quest for Camel Cheese.
What does the film crew of the 21st century look like? It’s rogue, under the radar and it’s asking: “What took you so long to join them?” Supported by a global network of passion-driven individuals who become part of their “skeleton crew”, the What Took You So Long Foundation is blazing entirely new trails.
Alicia Sully and Sebastian Lindstrom, founders of the creative and cultural movement, are turning the documentary film industry upside down and they’re taking you with them, playfully documenting “unsung issues and untold stories” around the world.
Camel milk, or the “new oil”, as filmmaker Alicia Sully calls it, contains three times the amount of vitamin C found in cow’s milk. Rich in iron, vitamin B, and unsaturated fatty acids, it is believed to be beneficial for people suffering from HIV-Aids. In Central Asia, Mongolia, and Somaliland, it is given to patients recovering from various maladies. From anemia to tuberculosis, the milk most closely related to human’s is even said to ease symptoms of autism.
Camel milk is commonly referred to as “liquid gold” for tens of millions of people across Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. The story of the camel and groundbreaking research on its milk and cheese has sent the team on a five-month trek through 15 different countries. With “Respect the Camel” as the initial title for the documentary, the team aims to raise awareness of the rapid decline of camel populations and lack of research regarding the milk’s valuable medicinal properties.
“This is an unbiased research trip” Lindstrom elaborates. “We’re not pushing anything here. It’s easy to say this is the solution but we’re simply asking for more research in the field.” What they are seeing is clear. Nomads that have herded for hundreds of years are falling into the trap of convenience; it’s far easier to care for other livestock. Meanwhile, traditional pastoral communities are losing sight of the versatile properties of a creature that symbolizes food, medicine, art, literature, and transportation in over 100 countries. There is a certain passion between man and the camel that goes almost unexplained. A bond must be created between the camel and herder. Without it, camels can become unhappy which translates directly to a substantial decrease in their milk production.
Lindstrom recounts an experience he had in Mongolia where the team aired a short on Mongolian National Television. “I’d often heard of farmers playing music to their animals but this was something different.” He goes on to explain traditional knowledge earned from a local elder, “The mother will not produce milk without the presence of her calf”. If a mother rejects her calf at birth, Mongolian lore has it that if you play the ‘hoos’ (traditional music) on a horsehair violin you will make the mother cry, feel compassion and accept the calf.
Not to be forgotten is the cheese this delicious milk can create. Watch a clip of the making of Mongolian camel cheese from Matador TV here. Camel herders claim it was man’s first cheese; an accidental discovery made when milk was stored in the stomach of a camel, the heat and churning movement of walking through the desert, naturally curdling the fresh milk. Camel cheese may be notoriously difficult to make but new technologies are changing this and the team hopes to create a network of camel researchers and investors ready to make cheese a marketable reality for pastoralists all over the world. ‘Respect the Camel’ is an attempt to further build awareness around this unsung superfood. “It’s unclear how sustainable, or awesome, (as Lindstrom prefers to say) this byproduct actually is.” With three more months left of their journey, rest-assured, the team will leave their audience with, not just a novel product to try but, a damn good story around them.
WTYSL has been traveling through Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Mauritania. Next stops will be Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, India, Israel, Kenya, Somalia. Know a nearby camel opportunity? Get in touch! email@example.com