The call of cow

cow

AS A CHILD, I loved milk. I drank gallons of it. My mother tried to control me, but she was rarely successful.

If it was in the house, I was on it like puppies on a bitch tit.

I harbor fond memories of milk with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And there were sandwiches of sliced banana, mayonaise and peanut butter too.

I’m still fruit for peanut butter.

In late adolescence, I found myself in the military. One aspect of military life left me giddy, and it was in the Mess Hall where there were literally faucets of endless milk, and you could drink as much as you pleased. And I surely did.

All through my adult life, I drank milk with most meals.

And then I moved to Mexico where milk is sold differently than anything I had previously encountered.

Ninety-nine percent of milk in supermarkets is not sold refrigerated. It sits on the regular shelves in hermetically sealed cartons, room temperature.

My reaction: Yuck!

This stuff cannot taste right, I told myself, as I placed the first carton in my shopping cart.

But it did taste right — after it was chilled — so my milk habit continued as always in my early Mexican years. Then I got married, acquiring Mexican relatives.

When I had lunch with these people, I would drink milk. They would drink Coca-Cola, water or — quite often — nothing at all. And they would snicker and roll their eyes at my milk.

Especially the kids.

Gradually, I quit drinking milk with lunch and supper, though I still pour it on my morning cereal. It was not so much peer pressure, which I am not very susceptible to, it was simply a different world, a world in which few people drink milk.

Nowadays I drink water with lunch and supper.

I still drink milk on my breakfast cereal and with the occasional waffle and maple syrup, all of which screams out for milk, but that’s the limit of my milk. Habits perish.

This morning, pouring milk on my cereal, I wondered when Mexico first started selling milk at room temperature in hermetically sealed cartons. I asked my wife if that was how her family got milk when she was a child. No, she said.

Her family’s milk came from a street vendor who poured it out of stainless steel containers into the family’s pots, or something like that. That is still common in Mexico.

Straight from the cow. I see these street vendors often.

But I get my much-reduced milk intake from the supermarket in the hermetically sealed cartons. These cartons wait on the kitchen counter until they’re needed in the fridge.

And like so many things here, it seems so normal now.

About milk

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.

milkThe Air Force mess halls always had big stainless-steel contraptions where you only had to lift a handle and milk came out. It was like a cow or a new human mother. And I did love milk.

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.

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(Note: I was a grunt in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1960s.)