Fresh Milk in the Houuuuuuse
Updated: May 5
I had an idyllic French countryside experience earlier this week - one I'll likely recount to my children and grandchildren 30 years from now when talking about life in France.
When we arrived in France three years ago, we bought pasteurized milk from the grocery store because it's what we were accustomed to drinking in the U.S. But the milk always seemed to spoil quickly, so we switched to shelf-stable ultra-pasteurized (UHT) milk in one-liter boxes or plastic bottles. I happen to really enjoy the creaminess of UHT milk, but it loses some nutrients after it's heated to 140 °C (284 °F). So for me, the holy grail is raw milk. And we finally found a local, affordable source.
On Tuesday I watched the bus head toward school with our children on board, then I strapped on my bike helmet and peddled less than half a mile to Patrick's farm. I parked outside his milking barn, removed two empty water bottles from my backpack, then peeked my head in the milking parlor to let him know I was there. He's used to it now. Every three days-or-so Wendy or I stop by at 9am and do our best to discuss various farm-related topics. Patrick (pronounced "pa-TREEK") uses a small pot and funnel to fill our bottles with fresh milk, adds it to our tab, and does his best to understand our French.
We really like the milk but Emerson is less than impressed. He has opted for dry cereal and cups of water over the past two weeks and keeps asking if we're realllllly going to keep buying "this kind." Sorry Emerson. Yes, we're going to continue buying raw milk from a kind man who lives down the street. We're going to continue paying less than we do at the grocery store, creating less waste by eliminating numerous bottles and boxes, supporting the local economy, and improving the nutrient density of our food.
Riding my bike along a country road, serenaded by swallows and sparrows, on my way home with bottles of fresh milk.... Moments like this are a salve for recent raw wounds, like the loss of our chickens, sheep, and Shelly. Yes, we're sad and frustrated sometimes but we are still a happy homestead. I'd rather have a tab at the local milking barn than at the local bar.
We're farmers in training, mothers in training, partners in training, French speakers in training, immigrants in training.
And we are drinkers of fresh milk from the Holsteins down the street.