Milk. Article by Jim C. Wilson.

It seems to me that there are now two or three health scares a day.  Avoid eggs, alcohol, sugar, salt…

And not long ago, the experts were suggesting that adults should keep away from milk.   Excuse me, then, if I feel a little smug about this particular hazard.  You see, I gave the stuff up over 60 years ago.  I knew it was no good.

I hate milk.  Disgusting, sickly, thin, white liquid that it is.  I haven’t drunk a cup, carton, bottle, glass or saucer of milk since 1954.  This abstention used to worry my mother.  I suppose a child’s aversion to milk just might give a mother a complex.  But the doctor said: “Don’t worry.  Milk is for babies.  Older children don’t need milk.” I milked his words for all they were worth.

But still I got milk puddings put down in front of me.  (“You don’t get up from that table until …”)  And in our house any illness, from heat spots to a hiatus hernia was invariably ‘cured’ by feeding the patient fish – boiled in milk.  And, of course, there was the nightmarish quagmire of tripe in milk.  Then there was my brother setting a hellish example by downing whole bottles of milk, a horrible pint at a time.

School was a problem too.  Actually, school was a lot of problems.  It wasn’t just the teachers who seemed devoid of the whatever-it-is of human kindness, it was more what was euphemistically known as playtime – five mornings a week.  Playtime always began with a third of a pint of milk in a bottle with a straw.  Forty slurping, sucking members of my peer group, all around me, and all filling themselves with bubbling, creamy milk.  The anguish was enough to make me grind my milk teeth into powdered milk teeth.

They put me in a hospital when I was six.  I don’t think it was anything to do with milk, but as I shared a ward with a boy who couldn’t walk, and one who’d swallowed a stone, I couldn’t readily deduce what my problem was.  But, whatever it was, I’m sure it wasn’t helped by the nurses trying to force-feed me milk.  And out of metal cups! I can still smell that awful milk in its cold, silvery container.  It has all the unpleasant associations of institutions, and children being made to do  things because, well, because it’s supposed to be good for them.  But I’ve never believed that being miserable and retching over a metal cup of milk was particularly health-inducing or character-forming.

After that stay in hospital, I made a clean breast of it and always refused milk.  I’d eat cheese and ice-cream (though not from the same dish) but I always ran a mile from milk.  I trembled at the thought of milk shakes and I barred myself from milk bars.

Oddly enough, one of the great pleasures of my childhood was helping the milkman with his deliveries.  But the real attraction there wasn’t clattering up tenement stairs with a jangling crate of bottles; it was being up on a stagecoach, charging over the cobbled prairies behind my milk-white steed.  Or, at least, the Co-op’s mottled grey steed.

Now that I’m an oldie, milk is altogether less of a problem.  Even restaurants which used to make sauces with milk or cream, now do so less and less.  My taste these days is for wine.  Red though, rather than white.  And I’ve never been too keen on German wines, especially the one they call LIEBFRAUMILCH.  It’s nothing to do with my LIEBFRAU, my own dear wife.  It’s just, well, I’m sure by now you can work out where the problem lies.

Milk has been marketed as the original soft drink, but the milky way will never be my way.  It’s just not my nipple.  Sorry, tipple.

So, pass the claret, Barrett!  And preferably not in a metal cup.

Jim C. Wilson © 2017.