Got (Raw) Milk!

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Last night, on the way home from Bordeaux, we stopped for milk.  Raw milk, from a mooing machine.  As they say in French “Je vous explique.” Let me explain.

Not long ago we were in the florist shop getting a little gift for the pharmacist, who has proven herself to be the most diligent pharmacist in France and possibly in the world.  None of which would seem to lead us down the primrose dairy path, except that the the florist had a sign saying that one could buy raw milk direct from the farm 24/7,  in  the nearby town of Caussade.  I asked her for details, she went upstairs to consult her husband (who was evidently the shopper in the family), and returned with the information that there was indeed a machine that dispensed raw milk in front of the supermarket.  Wow.

I couldn’t help but remember a time when we were on Orcas Island, in Washington, in an artsy sort of little head shop.  A tall gangly guy came in and went furtively towards the back of the store.  I even entertained the notion that he might have been a shop lifter, so I turned in his direction in time to hear him say, sotto voce,  to the shopkeeper “I hear that you can get….milk.”

It turned out that the San Juan Islands are home to a raw milk underground, wherein trustworthy people take the ferry from one island to another collecting raw milk and distributing it, quite illegally and in utter secrecy, to raw milk afficionados of their acquaintance.

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And yet here, in a French supermarket parking lot, was a little hut with a raw milk distribution system that was even more ingenious.  The machine will sell you a sterilized plastic bottle for 20 centimes, or a glass bottle for 3 Euros.  The milk is 1 Euro a liter, but you can get smaller amounts if you wish.  You buy a bottle, or bring your own, insert it into the machine, and immediately ice cold milk issues, accompanied by loud mooing sounds.  They might even be described as bellowing sounds, loud enough that every person in the parking lot, and possibly some shoppers in the store who are busy buying milk in small cardboard cubes that keep forever, know that someone somewhere is buying raw milk.  It couldn’t be less secret.

The sign on the machine instructs you to use a perfectly clean bottle, to refrigerate the contents immediately, and to drink your milk within three days of purchase.  In other words, the machine treats you like the adult you are, except that it moos at you, in a most delightful way.

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I, of course, got a glass bottle, which happens to say MILK MILK MILK all over it, instead of LAIT LAIT LAIT.  That’s extra ironic, given the fact that if there’s one thing you’re practically sure never to see in the US it’s an automatic 24/7 mooing raw milk dispenser.

To which I can only say tant pis, too bad, way too bad.

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19 Comments on “Got (Raw) Milk!”

  1. Lauren Says:

    I love this and I’m totally jealous!

  2. Eden Says:

    I can’t remember now if we got a photo of it, but while we were visiting you last year we actually passed a truck, parked in some little town or other, that dispensed milk in this same way. Although I don’t recall loud mooing :> There was a line of people surrounding it with empty containers in hand. I did not at the time realize it was RAW milk that they were queuing up for. My french only extended far enough for “Milk” but I loved the idea even so!

  3. Nina Says:

    Is this available in other places, do you know?
    I shall have to ask next time we are in France.

  4. zuleme Says:

    That is too funny. Especially the mooing.

  5. Nancy Says:

    Wot zuleme said!

  6. Abra Bennett Says:

    Nina – that is too hilarious! Different supermarket, different town, same mooing milk machine. On FaceBook!

    And the milk is really delicious too.

  7. Ed Ward Says:

    I had friends in Austin who worked for an illegal raw-milk distribution ring. They delivered late at night. Good training for dope-dealing, I guess.

    There was a truck with several hundred liters of raw milk selling it on the Place de la Comédie yesterday afternoon as part of a demonstration by a group I think was called Jeune Agriculteurs. They’d wrapped up the Three Graces in black plastic, and apparently had also handed out grapes. The milk was really cheap — but I’d just bought some!

  8. racheld Says:

    Abra,

    I’ve Missed you!! You and your bright comments and pictures and that lovely life you live. I saw a comment on Lucy’s site, and followed the link—I’m excited to find all this splendor here for the seeing, and will be returning often, for a peek at all the wonderful things you’re doing.

    Hope all is well with you and your family, and will look forward to taking in all the sights and sounds and tastes through your pictures and words.

    rachel

  9. Abra Bennett Says:

    Rachel – nice to see you again! I’m glad to hear that you will be sticking around.

    Ed – maybe it’s the other way around, dope dealing is a prelude to raw milk distribution, since, as we know, one thing leads to another.

  10. Wolfgang Says:

    I am very glad you two came back to France,
    The raw milk issue is here in Germany as it is in France No issue you just get it.
    The processed milk is just the easier to get.
    In France even the supermarkets like Leclerq sell it of the shelf as they sell milk products of lait cru, naturellement, nes pas?
    Wolfgang

  11. Wendy Says:

    that is the cutest thing I have ever seen, now this is a post that could use some audio! Moooooooo!

  12. Abra Bennett Says:

    I know. I wish we had a tape recorder here, it’s a fantastic mooing, sort of like a cow stuck in a fence overnight or something. We are so going to miss this when we go back to Uzès on Sunday.

  13. Carol Says:

    What is the big deal? As a 71-year old US-er, I have memories as a little girl of visiting my grandparents who had the genuine article–cows! I even helped my aunts milk them, though not very successfully!
    But the milk! I thought that it tasted terrible, even ice cold, not like my pasteurized good whole city milk. My sister and I would never drink it. Just another point of view.
    Oh yes! We did hear plenty of mooing, before, during, and after milking.

  14. Louis F. Says:

    I love it. I wish we could buy raw milk in NYC.

  15. Sharon M. Says:

    Carol, that is too bad that you remember it that way. As a small scale farmer (Jersey Cows, laying hens, meat chickens, pigs), I would have to say that store milk in no way compares to my smooth, creamy, DELICIOUS Jersey milk! Perhaps your milk was not handled properly, ie: strained and chilled ASAP, I don’t know. Pastuerizing milk is not necessary on small farms where cleanliness is NOT taken for granted, and proper milk handling is carried out. Pastuerizing actually “kills” the milk. Amd the milk bought at the store is not JUST milk, things are removed, and things that do not occur naturally in milk are added. Milk from the store, in this day and time is a processed food, just like any other processed food


  16. [...] And outside Le Farto, wonder of wonders, a raw milk machine. Last time we found one, it mooed loudly as it was dispensing milk, [...]


  17. [...] can help yourself while you get to hear mooooing while your milk jug is being filled.  Check out French Letters for additional photos. “in a French supermarket parking lot, was a little hut with a [...]


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