A pastry chef I met in a hallucination this afternoon had a good challenge to one part of my thesis on whipped dairy ingredients. She asked:
Joe, Northern European herding tribes were whipping cream thousands of years before French cooks were whipping egg whites. How can you say the French were the first to apply a whisk (or whip) to dairy foods?
Yes, it’s true, whipped cream predates whipped egg whites by God-only-knows how long. But early whipped cream probably wasn’t “whipped” in the sense that we think of it. Back then, airy, semi-solid cream would have been the result of any attempt to churn butter when the temperature was below 50 degrees. Whether those people went on to refine the process (say, by using twigs and a bowl instead of a churn), I really can’t say.