Got (Raw) Milk!
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.
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.
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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