Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pick and Choose

Blogging tonight from Eugene, OR where we are spending the night on the way to my brother's wedding in Seattle this weekend.

Before settling at the motel, we stopped to get some milk for the kids' bedtime fix at the neat grocery store across the street (their cheese section and bakery and deli go waaaay beyond anything we've got near home, sigh). I always find myself a bit disoriented in a grocery store away from home. It smells funny, the way things are set up just doesn't make sense, products that are familiar--that I buy all the time--look terribly out-of-place and downright strange in a different environment, and I never know which milk to buy.

I must have stood there for 5 minutes in front of the rather excessive selection of milks (all the while Hannah standing next to me complaining about being cold). There were the available-everywhere organics. But I can't remember...which brand is the "good" one and which is the one that exploits the rules so that most of the cows never really spend time out in the fields grazing on sweet, green grass? There's the milk in the glass bottles. I am a sucker for the gorgeous glass bottles. Then I get stuck on the price (besides, I don't need to be schlepping more stuff around right now). There's milk from the big Southern Oregon dairy. The packaging doesn't say where the milk they distribute comes from. There's the milk that tastes as generic as its packaging.

It's so much easier at home. I don't stand in front of the refrigerated case thinking about whether cows grazing on fresh pasture as much as possible really matters to me or if I've just been green-washed into thinking it does, I don't wonder whether Oregon cows are happy cows, I don't look for labels that tell me about hormones or antibiotics, buying milk's not some kind of existential exercise... I know what I want and I know exactly where to find it. And I know that we are lucky to have it so abundantly: authentic milk.

It's not that it's all fancy and trendy, it's that the flavors of particular farms and seasons come through so strongly. Sure, we buy it at the store in plastic gallon jugs and it looks like pretty much any other milk out there (you know, white), but to drink it is to taste the lush green, green, green that surrounds us.

Beyond savoring good milk is instilling in my children a sense of the ways in which the individuals who make up communities--Hannah and Jonah drinking milk before bed, the grocery store owner, the farmers, the cows--are connected to each other and connected to the place we all live. More to come on this topic.

(By this topic, I don't mean the many splendors of Humboldt County's dairy products. While there's plenty to be said, show of hands, who really wants me to keep nattering on about milk? You at the back and you over there... Right, that's what I thought. Rather, what I mean to return to is the topic of undoing the dammage done by the kind of talk I hear coming from my children, their teachers and their friends' parents that goes like this: "You need to tell your body to be still!", "Check whether your body needs to use the bathroom." Huh? Stay tuned.)

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