No one, as far as I can tell, drinks milk in Italy.
Whenever I find myself standing in line at the supermarket, holding a liter of milk–latte parzialmente scremato, which I take to be fresh 2 percent–I’m the only one. I’ve never seen anyone buy milk. There’s a tiny little milk section over there in the dairy aisle, along with a variety of yogurts and butters and a gazillion different wet and semi-wet fresh cheeses. Not a lot of milk. And like gasoline, milk is sold by the liter, not by the gallon. (A gallon!) Some days there’s no fresh milk on the shelf at all. Unthinkable. Across from the cooler are cases of UHT milk. No need to refrigerate that milk. Store it in the closet, it lasts forever. And tastes terrible.
I don’t think the woman behind me in line, or the cashier once I get there, looks at me and thinks, Aw, this grandpa must be buying it for a grandchild at home. And I certainly don’t think they assume I’m going to drink it. They probably just think, He must be an American. Then I open my mouth and remove all doubt.
In hotel breakfasts in Italy you find little spoon-size packets of Nutella. On hard crust bread or on a slice of prepackaged crispy junior white bread they call toast, Nutella is a treat. For American guests, and for Europeans who supposedly like a morning comestible called mueslix (never seen it), you’ll find fresh milk. In 45 years of travel over there, I have never seen a European eat cereal of any kind. I always have some, and feel, I confess, conspicuously American and, frankly, quite juvenile in my tastes as I pour milk over my Raisin Bran and granola. (I draw the line at Fruit Loops.) I also pour a glass of milk to enjoy with bread and nutella.
When we get back to the US, one of the first things I eat is a piece of toast and peanut butter, with a glass of milk.
If you looked in our fridge, you’d think that we have a habit, that one or both of us is a milk-aholic. That we should seek help. My son-in-law looked in there once, after I had just come home from Costco, and said Wow, who drinks all that milk? Well, I do. Drinking it takes a while. Ultra pasteurized milk today will last up to a month in the fridge. Confession: it’s gone before a month is up.
Supposedly milk isn’t good for you. My brother, raised at the same kitchen table I was, quit milk a long time ago. As kids we drank milk with every meal. So did our father. I don’t do that anymore, but I don’t want a glass of water with a piece of toast and peanut butter.
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine states, “Milk and other dairy products are the top source of saturated fat in the American diet, contributing to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have also linked dairy to an increased risk of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers.” Gee, I don’t want any of those things. But it’s not like I drink milk every day, I don’t skulk down in the basement or out to the garage and sneak a snort of milk to calm my nerves, I don’t keep a pint of it under the seat in the car, I don’t binge drink milk or go on a milk bender for days at a time. I’ve got things under control, I tell myself.
Google finds 179 slogans and taglines to sell milk. Some examples: It’s a natural (gently argumentative). It does a body good (playing the health card). Cows in wide pastures produce better tasting milk (appealing to the ethical consumer). Vast fields, make happier cows, and better tasting milk (bad punctuation). Experience the cream of the crop (oh, please). Creamy, dreamy dairy (poetry in a glass).
I like it. That’s all there is to it. Milk, please.