I've been with Adam, my husband, for 13 years. Well, we're not actually really married, per se, but I consider him my husband, and I refer to him as such. When you're an almost 50-year-old woman it sounds really stupid to use the word boyfriend, or for him to use girlfriend, and I'm not going to call him that; its ridiculous. I don't want to be a girlfriend. We are, for all intents and purposes (not intensive purposes, as I've been heard said lately) a married couple. Except we're not. We never got married. We're not even legal domestic partners. So what are we? Partners? That makes us sound like lawyers, or lesbians, and I look androgynous enough as it is. Significant others? That's a term that was floated in the '80s for people like us, POSSLQ's? Anyone remember that? Google it.
It's ridiculous that there's no word for us. English has failed us yet again. The language of Shakespeare and Woody Guthrie, Jenji Kohan and Jon Stewart, and we can't come up with a word for what we are? A few years ago Adam proposed a made-up word, Buzzgack. And why not? It's as randomly generated as any other word, all words were invented at some time in history... But it never really stuck. So funny how it hasn't caught on in the public arena. "Are you going to the company picnic at hanging rock this weekend? Oh yes, and I'm bringing my Buzzgack along, too!"
English fails us in the food arena too. When we need words to describe a flavor or a smell, we usually have to use a comparison; it's fruity, or floral, or nutty, herbaceous, or some of my favorite, wet cardboard, dog, barnyardy. All descriptive, all applicable, but all borrowed. Why can't a food taste smoo, or flench, or schluzy? "This species of wild mushroom has a schluzy aroma, but an overtly flench taste. While the wine we've paired with it, has an overwhelmingly smoo quality to it." If we can all agree on what flench, smoo and schluzy represent, we've got ourselves a whole new set of food and beverage vocabulary words.
But, instead we rely on the euphemism, or the comparison, or the almost-but not-quite accurate word to represent what we're talking about. The stand-in word. The look-alike or sound alike or suggest-alike.
Here's what I'm getting at. I just came back from a trip to LA. Well, first I went to Portland to visit BFF Lisa, and then to LA to visit my cousin Robin. Now, if ever there was a city built on euphemism, it's LA. It's called a city, but it's not really a city. Not like NYC anyway, it's more like a bunch of small towns and villages strung together by freeways, but I actually really like it. I'd even consider living there, temporarily, like if someone wanted to turn my radio show, Let's Get Real, into a TV show, and I had to move out there for six months or something? But LA to me, is a city of metaphor and look-alikes and sound-alikes. Hollywood, Disney, fantasy -- you know what I mean. And all those fake boobs... Everywhere you look: fake boobs.
One morning of the weekend, during our daily canyon hike, the subject of milk came up. Now Robin (my cousin) is like the number one biggest fan and listener of Let's Get Real. She keeps up, if you know what I'm saying, and she has totally changed her food lifestyle the past few years and is looking and doing great. So we talk about food and stuff like that a lot. She's on the wall of fame in the Foodiness fallout shelter, too.
We were talking about milk because I really need my big cuppa English breakfast tea with milk in the morning, first thing, and Robin rarely does any caffeine. She's not a coffee or tea person, and I am. A tea person. I like an iced coffee or a latte now and then, but my day starts with tea. Strong, good English tea. With milk. In hotter months, I pour my milky English tea over ice, and I think we were discussing that, as we headed out for our morning hike in Fryman Canyon. The one where you finish by George Clooney's house. Not that you can see anything over the twenty-foot fence patrolled by big scary dogs that surrounds the perimeter, but I've been told it's his house. So I put my iced milky tea in a big plastic sippy cup and we were off.
And as we walked the three feet from the house to the car, (we were in LA, remember?) Robin was saying something about alternative milks, like soy and almond and the like, and she was expressing her annoyance with the fact that they are actually called milks at all, since they all come from plant sources, not mammals, and there are no nipples involved in producing them, and therefore shouldn't be calling themselves milk. Yet again, a failure of English. I'd bumped up against this issue not that long ago in a consulting project meeting with some vegans, and I totally agreed with her, all of those non-dairy, non-nipple milks, should absolutely not be called milk, because they aren't! The vegans didn't even want to use the term milk in association with coconut milk because it implied an acceptance of an animal product paradigm! (and this was in NYC, not LA!)
So what do we call them? Well, therein lies the problem, the buzzgack conundrum, we have no word for them. They're not milk, Robin's right, so what are they? Well, in a sense, they're classic Foodiness, calling themselves milks, purporting to be as nutritious or serving the same needs culinarily, but they're not. Oh sure, if you put shredded raw coconut and water, or soaked raw almonds and water in a blender and whiz away, you get nut "milks." And they are delicious and have many applications in cooking and baking, I mean Thai food is practically built on a base of coconut milk, but if we want to get into semantics here, and Foodiness deception and industrial fake-outs? Not Milk. No nipples, not milk. The gospel according to Robin. I'm down with that, I support that proclamation.
So what do we call those non-milk fluids? The grain and nut and who knows what else white stuff in aseptic packaging that fill the shelves of supermarkets today? The almond, soy, hemp, oat, rice, hazelnut, and grain whitish liquids that attach the m-word to their base nouns because English has failed them, too. Is it juice? Nope, taken. Essence, extract, elixir? Uh, no. We need a word, a Buzzgack type of word. Or maybe something like "not-milk" as in "I'll have a grande-decaf-chai-low-foam latte with soy not-milk?" And being in LA, it makes total sense. If all the boobs are fake, then the milk must be too, right? I mean, can you get real milk from a fake boob? As Robin says, if it doesn't come from a nipple, it's not milk.
Now before everyone who avoids or even shuns dairy jumps ugly all over me and gets all up in my grass-fed grill, let me just say that I GET the fact that some people are either truly allergic to dairy products, or have problems with digesting lactose, or just want to avoid animal products. Ok? I get it! It's not the issue here today, you want to choose to avoid dairy, it's your choice, mazel-tov and good luck. All I'm saying, is that whatever you're buying in those shelf-stable "paks," isn't milk. But it isn't much else either, mostly water, and thickeners like carageenan, and whitening agents, and sugar. There's about 30 cents worth of almonds in a quart of almond milk, not exactly the nutritional powerhouse of dairy, so they pump it up with added protein and vitamins. I LOVE almonds, but if I want a white, milk-like beverage from them, I'd make it myself. By soaking raw almonds in water and then whizzing them in a blender with water. Then I know what I'm getting. Most non-milks have very little of the actual noun from their name in them, a few almonds, some rice puree, and a lot of water. And sugar, of course, because without the sugar, they taste really bad, kind of bitter, a little metallic. And since milk is naturally sweet, as it's full of lactose, they sweeten them up to match the sweetness profile of dairy milk. If you're lactose intolerant, try eating fermented dairy, like kefir, the bacteria in the fermentation process gobble up the lactose. Or how about goat's milk? I love goat yogurt and goat cheese, and goat milk if the most similar to human milk, nutritionally.
Now, there is that giant white lactating elephant in the room to address, about the unquestionable weirdness about milk and milk consumption, and that humans are the only mammals who, A. continue to drink milk throughout life after weaning, and B. are the only mammals that drink the milks of other mammal species. Mmm. It's kind of gross and weird when you think about it, but we're also the only mammal species to have invented TV, craft beer and chocolate, so we may not be that crazy after all. And we got this way because our big brains, made big by ingesting all that extra protein after inventing cooking and dairy agriculture, allowed us to do so. I mean, if one day, a herd of goats decide to show up at my door and force me into a pen where they hook me up to a milking machine to make me their milk-producing slave animal...well, the joke will be on them because by then, I'll already have been though menopause! So ha ha goats! Too little, too late, as they say.
The Foodiness-Industrial complex has sunk their teeth into the non-milk milks category like crazy lately, and their deceptive drool is all over those neat little quart boxes. Have you seen how many non-milk milks are on the store shelves lately? Hemp, hazelnut, oat, grain, rice, almond, not to mention soy, although we should never mention soy because you should never drink soy milk, for multiple reasons which I shall refrain from here other than to say "man-boobs". Not that the Dairy-Industrial complex is any better, by god, no! All that RBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) all that grain and soy feeding, forced year-round lactation, ugh, no. If you're gonna drink milk, it's gotta be grass-fed, organic, and preferably raw. I can't get raw milk in my state of New York because my state government feels the need to protect me (and it's dairy industry) from that, but if you can, well, let me know. Maybe I'll cross state lines and we can make a deal.
Industrial cow milk is just as bad as industrial soy milk, or hemp or rice or almond milk, maybe even worse, really, because the dairy cattle are like giant concentrators of all the toxins, pesticides and heavy metals they ingest from their sad, factory-farmed lives. But lucky for us, there's grass-fed milk in our local markets here now, if you can find it near you. And seriously, spend the extra dollar or two on it. I mean, people tell me that $5 for a half gallon of grass-fed milk is too pricey, while they spend $150 a month on cable and $100a month on wireless and will drop $14 on a stupid, pretentious, 3-ounce cocktail or $6 for a sugar-bomb coffeeccino every afternoon! Are you seriously telling me you can't swing the good milk? Or the pastured eggs for $5/dozen because you just spent your last $160 getting your hair highlighted?
Priorities, people, priorities! What's more important? Your food and your health, or having the game-show network? Hmm? Did anyone, ever, on their deathbed wish they'd watched more Nineteen and Counting and regret buying the best-quality food they could find? Don't answer that. Just let me know if you have a hook-up for raw milk... but keep it quiet. I don't want my Buzzgack to have to bail me out of jail, I watch Orange is the New Black. I've seen what they have to eat in there...