Friday, May 18, 2007

Picking My Poison

Since Florida is prime cow country, when we moved here I had high hopes that I'd be able to find an old childhood treat: raw milk. Basically, that means milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized; we used to get it when I was a very young child, but at some point it became illegal to sell. Ostensibly, that's because unpasteurized milk carries a high risk of disease, plague, death, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living short, mass hysteria. However, in view of the recent spinach contamination, the deadly poisoned pet food, and the latest contaminated ground beef scare, it seems as tho' milk straight from the cow teat should be the least of the lawmakers' worries.

I hadn't had a taste of this creamy, cholesterol-laden treat since the late 1980s, when I used to get it at a riding stable. The owner had a few cows among the horses, and he sold raw milk and ice cream to people he knew. My favorite among the homemade ice cream was "Lemon Creme," lemon-flavored ice cream chock full of smashed-up lemon creme cookies. I boarded my horse, Cochise, down the street, so I'd ride down to the stable and tie him up while I purchased my treat. When I was done, Cochise wouldn't move until I gave him his share...I always saved the bottom of the cone, with a bit of ice cream left inside, for my steed.

Sadly, that stable is now a subdivision, and my raw-milk sources dried up for two decades. When we moved to the Sunshine State, the herds of peacefully grazing bovines piqued my hope. Surely I would be able to find a new source. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that most of the blissfully unaware critters were destined to become steaks, not milk producers.

After doing some research, I discovered that raw milk can be legally sold in Florida, as long as it is labeled for pet use only. That's fine with me, and if I happen to accidentally grab the wrong container in the fridge and mistakenly pour a glass for myself...oh well...

Still, it took me a long time to find an organic supplier that carries it. Finally my persistence was rewarded, and this week I've gotten my first taste of Liquid Heaven in 20 years. Sure, I bought it for the cats just as the law stipulates, but I think somehow it accidentally got switched with the regular carton.

Actually, I did share my bounty with the cats; Farquuad adores milk, but Tooncinator has never been all that excited about it. But when he got a sniff of the raw stuff, he actually pushed Quaad aside!

It brings back so many memories to see that thick clot of cream on the top through the glass container. I actually had a flashback of the days when a real, honest-to-goodness, white-uniformed milkman would deliver glass gallons to our door.

We really lived on the edge when I was a child...a true Darwin Family, ensuring that only the most hardy genes were passed along by placing us in all sorts of dangerous situations. I guess it's sort of ironic that I chose not to breed; having survived my upbringing, I have proven an intrinsic hardiness that Charles D. would be proud of, but it won't make it to a new generation.

My favorite childhood endangerment was my mother's bright idea of bathing me in the kitchen sink, right next to a plugged-in toaster. Better yet, she disappeared somewhere in the bowels of the house, leaving me unattended. So what does a bored two-year-old do? Sure...stick their hand into the closest available interesting niche. A toaster...shiny...silver...ooooooo! OWWWWWWW!!!!

Fortunately, my screams roused my older brother. He tried to touch me but got a jolt, so thank goodness he had the presence of mind to unplug the toaster. To this day, I'm still not certain why I wasn't killed. Oddly enough, I still remember the incident, although I don't remember the shock. A burning feeling sticks in my mind, though I have no burn scars on my hand. My brother, of course, has never let me forget that he saved my life. I think my mother showed up at some point, relatively non-plussed at the chaos. Her reaction was to institute a new family rule that the toaster had to be unplugged after every use (my sink-bathing continued unabated).

Recently, I was going through one of my childhood photo albums, and I came upon a picture of my toddler self, naked and sudsy, soaking in the kitchen sink. The infamous toaster lurks in the background, awaiting its opportunity to seduce me. Ah, memories....

My mom also served us raw beef in the form of meatballs; as she was making dinner, she would make a few extra that were given to us kids as a "treat." Thus, I developed a taste for bloody cow flesh that remains with me to this day. When I return to Chicago, I seek out my favorite German restaurant and order hackepeter, i.e. a plate of raw, ground-up filet served with a raw egg on top and a garnish of raw onions. It probably sounds gross unless you are either a) German or b) rather fond of playing Samonella Roulette.

But I am living proof that raw, bacteria-laden food and a little occasional shock therapy are good for the human constitution. In over four decades on this earth, I've never been in the hospital and have enjoyed almost perfect health, save for a variety of annoying allergies. But if that's the worst that I've ever had to deal with, I have no cause for complaint.

In researching sources of raw milk, I discovered that there is actually a whole movement to legalize it again, mainly because of its purported health benefits. Like other raw and organic foods, the milk is supposedly much healthier than its heated and treated counterpart.

I don't know about the health benefits; all I know is that the taste is sheer ecstasy. There are plenty of other things you can buy that are supposedly "bad" for you, from cigarettes to Triple Whoppers with cheese. Hopefully, the day will come when I don't have to buy my raw milk supertiously, sharing my bounty with my felines in order to stay within the letter of the law. In the meantime, I'm just pleased that I can finally indulge my cholesterol craving once, if I could just find a local restaurant that serves hackepeter, my self destructive appetites would once again be complete.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too grew up on raw milk and miss it terribly. I was able to buy it a few years ago and with great excitement shared it with my kids, who responded with a resounding Yuck! Ah well, more for me!
Amy from VA

Also- thanks for the blogs. We're thinking about moving to Celebration and your site is the best I've come across!