These bottles of milk in our local grocery chain may have been available for awhile, but they are new to me. When I saw them, everything in my body screamed, “Yes, this is so right!” You see, Whatcom County, where we live, is diverse in its talents and beauties and one corner of it, nestled in a valley just below the Canadian border, is home to some of the sweetest, most earnest dairies in the world.
The town of Lynden, in particular, was founded by a collective of Dutch immigrants. Their community grew around their adherence to the Dutch Reform Church and so morality was legalized and vice versa. In Lynden, you can dance or you can drink, but never both in the same establishment. A drive down Main Street conjures up the set of Pleasantville. The streets are wide and clean and the modest homes have impossibly manicured lawns. The children of Lynden, boosted by their genetics and steady calcium intake, are uncommonly tall for these parts and regularly dominate the high school basketball league. Even the perfectly laid-out cemetery, the cornerstone of their city planning, is a continual reminder that we’re all going to meet our maker and we had better be wearing clean underwear when it happens. All of this attention to cleanliness and self-discipline has also been applied to the dairy farms on the surrounding acreages. Picturesque family owned and operated dairies, their round-roofed barns and silos marking the individual properties, are scattered from Lynden to the border.
Back to the milk bottles. The idea of buying milk, produced on these righteous farms, not 10 miles from the store, fits with all of my values. The fact that the milk is bottled in reusable glass jars that you get a substantial refund for returning to the store made me squeal (inside) with happiness. I still have growing boys at home and plastic milk jugs make up the biggest bulk in our recycling bins.
And so these nostalgic looking bottles are sitting in my refrigerator while I continue to pour every last drop of milk and half and half from the plastic and cardboard containers we already had. Sure it makes sense to use up the older product first, but is there a problem? I can’t believe I am still dealing with this at my age, but I have had a life-long phobia about drinking milk that comes directly out of cows. We had a milk cow on our farm in Colorado when I was a child and when she was giving milk, we had tons of it. My dad would bring a 5-gallon bucket of steamy, raw milk into the kitchen where my mom would proceed with straining and chilling it. Then she would separate a substantial layer of cream from the milk, though there was plenty still floating around. From there we actually churned butter and made cottage cheese. These are all things I support in theory. Problem was that I hated the taste of the milk. It tasted cowy. I also didn’t like seeing chunks of cream floating in my cereal bowl and so when it was homemade milk season at our house, I pretty much went off dairy. My mom even tried to trick me once by pouring our farm-fresh stuff into a leftover cardboard milk container from the store, but I knew in an instant what she had done. Now, staring at these translucent bottles, I can see that the color of the milk isn’t pure white, but an ivory color. A thick head of cream is clogging the neck of the bottle and a true anxiety begins to wash over me at the thought of cracking open the lid and pouring/glopping it out. I just don’t know if this is going to work for me. I find myself yearning for the comfort and familiarity of the bleached white, plastic bottled milk I know. But I have an idea, I saw a jug of this milk in the store done in a chocolate version. Maybe I will revert to my old “add chocolate flavoring” trick to resolve my dairy contradiction.