CHOCOLATE and SAUERKRAUT (3) - It’s The Milk
It’s The Milk: All my life we had been a skim milk family. LA being the land of skim milk and artificial sweetener, it was practically illegal to keep the fat in your dairy. Non-fat frozen yogurt, artificial butter spray, and wedges of gelatinous fat free Laughing Cow cheese were the stuff of my childhood and adolescence. I remember wondering as we strolled through the dairy section of our posh local supermarket, why they bothered keeping whole milk on the shelves at all.
One of the inherent prejudices I had growing up in a Jewish family was against milk with dinner. We weren’t Kosher, so milk with meat was not a rule we intentionally followed. We ate ample cheeseburgers and meat lasagnas, but somehow a glass of milk, unadulterated, unprocessed into some other dairy product, was a taboo that none of us dared to break. Plenty of children of all social classes and backgrounds grow up having a glass of milk with their dinner but for Jews this practice reeks of bad taste. We would much rather drink Hawaiian Punch or Crystal Light iced tea with our evening meal. Milk carried with it a whiff of Christianity so strong that I could hardly imagine a family sitting down to have their milk and meatloaf for dinner without also imagining the children with cartoon halos above their heads. Milk was Santa Claus and Leave it to Beaver. It was missing children alerts and pre-school construction projects. It wasn’t something we actually drank; and no wonder, because skim milk is disgusting. Besides the chalk white color, skim and whole milk have nothing in common. Watch whole milk pour into a glass—it undulates with the sensuality of a large hipped woman taking an evening stroll. Skim milk has none of this thick creamy confidence. It pours out in a hesitant trickle. A full glass of whole milk looks like an invitation to pure comfort. A full glass of skim milk has about as much flavor and cheer as tepid water.
The intricate balance of cow’s milk is the gastronomic foundation of cheeses as diverse as Morbier and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It accounts for the subtle differences between Irish and Vermont butter. When you taste whole milk, or better yet, raw milk, you can almost taste the sweetness of sugars extruded from grasses, the fresh slightly salty tang of sea air, even—and maybe this is going to far—the soothing creaminess of maternal hormones. And this is coming from a child who was notorious about refusing breast milk. I’m sorry mom I just hadn’t developed my palette yet. I was a late bloomer when it came to lactose but now I relish it with a connoisseurship I can’t quite muster for wine and scotch.
German milk comes in many containers and most of them are nothing like the cardboard cartons or glass bottles I grew up with in LA. The Brodowin frische Bio Vollmilch comes in a standing plastic pouch with an inflated plastic handle and a spout you make by cutting the corner off of it. This design won Brodowin the 2007 Innovations Preis for Handwerk. But packaging aside, the milk is just sensational. 3.7% fat and un-homogenized, it carries with it a soft, clean hay flavor. The color is slightly more golden than the typical pure-white people associate with milk and in fact the slight ochre color is a testament to the company’s refusal to tamper with the character of fresh milk, which is always vibrantly yellow when it comes straight from the cow and has the color processed out of it mostly for purely aesthetic reasons.
I look forward to drinking a glass of this milk the way someone who’s just bought a Porsche looks forward to driving it. Despite my new status as the non-working member of a poor immigrant couple, I refuse to do the sensible thing and buy cheap milk. Cheap beer, I have no problem acquiescing to, and in fact I’ve developed a taste for Sternburg Import that makes me want to high-five the alcoholics who hang around the U-Bahn drinking the stuff all day long. But now that I’ve found the holy grail of life-long milk quests, I can’t simply switch brands because finances do not permit me to indulge in pricier organic dairy products. No, I prefer to drink no milk at all and wait until our fortunes turn. With exactly one coffee cup’s worth of milk left in my prized Brodowin pouch, I measure my days in careful spoonfuls and hope that I land a job before the last drips run out.