THE BEST thing about being in the Air Force was the endless supply of milk. If there had been an equal supply of green grapes or flan, I likely would have been a lifer, a career man.
My mama, when I was a youngster, always complained about the quantity of milk I consumed, and once I made myself sick by eating green grapes. But the Air Force never held back on the milk supply and for that — if little else — I loved it. If only there had been grapes or flan.
There was no flan in my childhood. That came later.
When I arrived in Mexico, the milk situation surprised me. Though you can find chilled milk in cartons in the supermarket coolers, just like above the Rio Bravo, almost no one purchases it that way. It’s a specialty item. Customers buy milk off the regular shelves where it sits unchilled in sealed cartons.
The first time I spotted this, I thought: Yuck! But since this is by far the most common way to buy milk in Mexico, I bought it. I keep two in the fridge and the others on the kitchen shelf. After you chill it, it tastes just as it should.
I drink far less milk these days because Mexicans don’t drink much milk, even kids. My wife, my other new relatives, would look at me and giggle when I poured a glass of milk to accompany, say, a lunch. But it wasn’t the giggles so much as it was that the environment is different.
Nowadays, I drink milk with cereal and the occasional pastry at night, but normally I drink water. I still love a good mound of green grapes, however. They’ll never convince me otherwise.
And there’s less good flan here than you might think.
* * * *
(Note: I was a grunt in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1960s.)