Early morning discovery in Seattle!

I was up early and the house was quiet as we had retired late yesterday. It was getting light and I could see enough to make myself a cup of coffee without switching on the light. I know the method of making coffee using the espresso machine and as I began making coffee I looked out of the window hoping to catch the early morning sun on the peaks of the Mt. Rainier. It is, true to its name, always behind the clouds! This morning it was seen but not in golden hues, but it was still very impressive in different shades of grey!

Anyway the coffee decoction was ready and it was time to add some milk and I took out the carton of milk and started to add. I was shocked to see that the milk was totally watery. My first reaction was my god the milkmen cheat even in America! Then I remembered there are no milkmen and there are many varieties of milk. I took the carton near the window to check. Sure enough, the milk was 'fat free'! I have been always using the regular milk that is given to the kids for my coffee. Honestly, I see no logic in buying fat free milk, when you can always add water if you want it diluted. In fact, it may even be cheaper this way! I suspect that fat free milk would be more expensive than the regular one as it has to be processed to take out the fat. Unless of course, they now breed cows to give fat free milk!

I have by now, learnt to keep my counsel on such important issues in the US. I know the only way to change the minds here is to get Oprah's or Ellen's attention and convince them about my reasoning. I still haven't figured how accomplish this feat!

As you would expect, this takes me back to my Bengalooru days, before the onset of milk dairies and pasteurised milk. Even then, after dairies started supplying milk, we would still boil the pasteurised milk as no one fully trusted the dairies to do a thorough job. Also, we needed the cream for making butter!.

Those days the milkman or woman would bring the cow home early in the morning to our homes and milk the cow in front of one of us. Ostensibly this system ensured that we got pure cows milk and not fat free. Our vigilance was not enough as we learnt with experience that they had many tactics to distract us and add water to the milk. One was to appear so early in the morning that the watcher would be still sleepy and not that observant. They would show one vessel which was empty but switch to another with water in it as it was still dark outside and we would not detect the switch. It was a game as there were constant negotiations to change the price of milk, lower by the customer with arguments that the quality of milk was not so good and by the milkman who would give many stories about the cost of inputs and so on. Of course, it was a fairly equal battle as the milkman could just switch customer, which they did often, if things did not work well for them.


Gayathri said…
Hi Nidhi! The whole picture of the early morning "milking the cow" routine did bring back a lot of memories. When we spent my vacations in Bangalore, it was absolutely fascinating for me to be able to sit on the gate (literally) and watch the process - as early as 4 am - may be it was in anticipation of the routine I now follow in Bangkok. It was also a special time I shared with my grandmother. I vividly remember arguing with her how cruel it was that the little calf was denied the milk and was protesting against the ropes that held it back - and how we should all give up drinking milk as it was also a sin! And she always very cleverly avoided the issue by starting a story about the celestial cows and how wonderful they were and such. And since she was an amazing story teller, that was enough for me to forget all about the ethical conflicts involved in drinking milk and other such profound connections!
Mohini said…
(Mohini understands the agony a SIB feels, when he is faced with only watery milk for his morning cofee!)

Hi Nidhi uncle, When you visit us in London, we'll have Jersey full fat milk for you- very creamy, mmm! :-)--Mohini
Sriram said…
One of the tricks that we were supposed to be on the lookout for was to make sure that the milking bucket was indeed empty of all water, even though they made a show of "throwing" out all the water - apparently there was a way of doing it so that some water would still remain in the bucket, and only a complete upside down motion was acceptable.

Apparently the smell and taste of fat free milk is completely different from that of regular or even 2% milk, so just adding water to dilute it will not achieve the purpose. You will probably have to get "half and half" to add to coffee or tea to get the Indian style drink. During the days when I used to travel quite a lot, one of the major problems was to make sure that the waitresses in hotels did not change the composition by adding the coffee decoction which they always carry around, until I had fully finished the carefully prepared cup. It is a little bit easier with tea, as they only use tea bags here, and will not keep adding hot water. --Sriram

(Sriram's gyan is useful. I remember the shock I experienced when I first came to the US and was given black coffee and not 'brown' as it should have been, I quote R K Narayan here, and when I tried to add milk, it was cold. With all this hassle I decided to develop a taste for the black coffee!)
srinidhi said…
Hi Gayathri
I did not know it was a regular practice to bring the cows around so early in the morning! When I used to complain, they used to say the cow started walking and they did not realise it was so early.

Rohini says she was not aware of this practice of getting cows home to deliver fresh milk!
Aditi said…
The butter made from the boiled milk is probably the best!! On some dosas in the morning...ohhh sometimes I feel I'm in the wrong country haha!!
Gayathri said…
While we are on this truly heart-touching topic of milk - as seen from the very heartfelt responses, may I saw that Sriram - and R.K. Narayan - have a "soul brother" in Mukund - when we are at a restaurant and he wants some coffee, he goes into this spiel on how he does not want coffee-mate, but "real milk", and how that "real" milk nees to be made really hot so that when mixed with the decoction, the temperature would be ideally hot and such. and aditi,such an ardent longing for fresh homemade butter on hot dosas? that's the Bengalooru identity speaking up! Rohini, what do you think INDIANS mean when they use the phrase "till the cows come home"???? sorry, just couldn't resist that one!

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