Milk, All of a Sudden

Cow Crossing

Cow Crossing

It's milk all over the place, for some reason, not spilled, but compelling a new consideration. My sharp-eyed librarian friend pointed me toward Milk, a new book of history and recipes by Anne Mendelson, and Milk in the Land, a documentary film that "examines the relationship between the popular drink and culture, revealing how milk became America's staple beverage as well as a powerful symbol of American patriotism and progress." (It's wonderful to have librarian friends.) Did you know that two million Canadians each year take advantage of a free milk calendar produced by Canadian dairy farmers? This is an udderly Canadian thing to do - Canadians being so full of good sense and commitment to living well. The home economist who develops the recipes that boost the calendar's popularity "has a rule that unless an ingredient is available in her local grocery store in the small town of Buckhorn, Ont., she doesn't use it in the calendar. Green curry paste came to Buckhorn this year, so a recipe for Thai Pork Stir-Fry is featured in October 2009."

Even San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Harvey Milk, murdered 30 years ago, is in the news courtesy of a new movie, Milk, starring Sean Penn.

I'll take all these events as signs that milk is on its way back into our lives, in ways that go beyond even the charming milk mustache ads. I'm talking real milk, fresh milk, local milk, from pristine local dairies.

Anne Mendelson points out that the idea of drinking fresh, unsoured milk is an unusual one in the history of humans and milk (or "milch") animals. Mendelson touts yogurt as a particularly beneficial, delightful way to benefit from cows' rare abilities to turn grass into nutrition that sustains humans.

I'll forgo touting my own favorite low-temp yogurt, and instead remind you that cool fall days and cold winter days invite homemade hot chocolate -- an inexpensive luxury so easy to make you'll slap your forehead about the times you used a cardboard-flavored powdered mix. If you want to do something amazing that takes more time but still very little money, make your own homemade marshmallows. (How can a Martha Stewart recipe on Oprah's website lead us astray?) Actually - I've made these marshmallows, and can report a big success, making me feel like a Kentucky version of Ferran Adrià.