The call of cow


AS A CHILD, I loved milk. I drank gallons of it. My mother tried to control me, but she was rarely successful.

If it was in the house, I was on it like puppies on a bitch tit.

I harbor fond memories of milk with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And there were sandwiches of sliced banana, mayonaise and peanut butter too.

I’m still fruit for peanut butter.

In late adolescence, I found myself in the military. One aspect of military life left me giddy, and it was in the Mess Hall where there were literally faucets of endless milk, and you could drink as much as you pleased. And I surely did.

All through my adult life, I drank milk with most meals.

And then I moved to Mexico where milk is sold differently than anything I had previously encountered.

Ninety-nine percent of milk in supermarkets is not sold refrigerated. It sits on the regular shelves in hermetically sealed cartons, room temperature.

My reaction: Yuck!

This stuff cannot taste right, I told myself, as I placed the first carton in my shopping cart.

But it did taste right — after it was chilled — so my milk habit continued as always in my early Mexican years. Then I got married, acquiring Mexican relatives.

When I had lunch with these people, I would drink milk. They would drink Coca-Cola, water or — quite often — nothing at all. And they would snicker and roll their eyes at my milk.

Especially the kids.

Gradually, I quit drinking milk with lunch and supper, though I still pour it on my morning cereal. It was not so much peer pressure, which I am not very susceptible to, it was simply a different world, a world in which few people drink milk.

Nowadays I drink water with lunch and supper.

I still drink milk on my breakfast cereal and with the occasional waffle and maple syrup, all of which screams out for milk, but that’s the limit of my milk. Habits perish.

This morning, pouring milk on my cereal, I wondered when Mexico first started selling milk at room temperature in hermetically sealed cartons. I asked my wife if that was how her family got milk when she was a child. No, she said.

Her family’s milk came from a street vendor who poured it out of stainless steel containers into the family’s pots, or something like that. That is still common in Mexico.

Straight from the cow. I see these street vendors often.

But I get my much-reduced milk intake from the supermarket in the hermetically sealed cartons. These cartons wait on the kitchen counter until they’re needed in the fridge.

And like so many things here, it seems so normal now.

52 thoughts on “The call of cow

  1. You’re now used to that milk, but as someone who is not, let me assure you that the shelf-stable stuff isn’t as good as the fresh stuff.

    Can’t you get fresh milk? I’ve never had (much) trouble getting it in Mexico, though I haven’t checked to see whether I’m paying a hefty premium for the privilege.

    Meanwhile, the ordinary dairy product that I’ve never seen in a store in Mexico (sadly) is half & half. Fortunately, one can still get whipping cream, which is a reasonable substitute.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we also are milk lovers.


    1. Kim: I’ll take your word for its being of lesser taste. I’ve grown totally accustomed to it, plus drinking it far less, so it’s not a problem.

      Superama, the chichi spin-off of Walmart, sells refrigerated milk, but the sealed containers are just more convenient. Yep, never seen Half & Half.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Whipping cream was non-existent in Honduras, as was its cousin, half-n-half. Sniff. All the cream was used to make a type of soft cheese they called mantequilla (butter). It wasn’t butter, but rather a slightly less sour type of sour cream.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. We had specialty coffee shops all over the country since coffee is a national obsession. The specialty drinks generally cost a grand total of $1 or perhaps $1.25 in USD. Therefore, I drank something akin to cream that was sold only in prepared drinks in the fancy stores.


          1. Well, that sounds cool. But I prefer to have half & half in the house so I can get a coffee fix immediately upon rising. But my experience in Mexico has taught me to just go with whole milk if I have to. Some times we just have to “rough it.” Saludos!

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I too remember the unending glass of milk from the military chow hall. It was great.

    The chow hall opened my eyes to fish that didn’t taste like mud, pineapple pie, cheesecake and a lot of other things we could never afford when I was a kid.

    I drank coffee for the first time in my life, and I loved it. Military food was great until I went to Viet Nam. There everything was subject to local interpretation. Lots of rice and spam. Butter came in a can from New Zealand as did apples.


    1. Señor Gill: Surely, you must also remember the famous military dish called S:O.S., something I enjoyed.

      I do not recall the first time I drank coffee. My mother was a coffee drinker, so I’m sure I had tasted it at home as a kid. I do not remember when I became a regular coffee drinker.

      What I most remember trying for the first time during my time in the Air Force, though not on a base but in a restaurant in Merced, California, was sour cream, which I had never even heard of. I was eating one evening with my boss, a staff sergeant (a womanizing boozer who enjoyed taking me out drinking), and we ordered baked potatoes. The waitress asked if we wanted sour cream. Sounded dreadful to me, but the sergeant urged me to order it. Loved it ever since.


      1. When I was a kid, my mother used to buy milk from a neighbor that had cows. The top half of the jug was cream, which was skimmed off for my father. You can’t legally buy raw milk now. The USDA and FDA are constantly busting Amish and Mennonite farmers for selling raw milk. The DEA should be replaced by the USDA. It is easier to buy drugs than raw milk. Sell crack and Obama lets you walk. Sell raw milk, and you rot in prison.


        1. Señor Gill: I did not know it is illegal to sell raw milk in the U.S. now. Just one more example, among throngs, of U.S. government overreach, meddling. I weep for my former nation and the people who live there.


        2. Here in Kansas City, Missouri, it is legal to buy raw milk, which I buy from a local farm family. The whole milk tastes like melted ice cream. Yum. Yogurt from raw milk is equally delicious. I don’t know that it is legal to buy in retail markets. I’ve not ever seen it anywhere. You should see the odd looks we get from passersby while standing in line at the back of the white cargo van. We look like either a food line for the homeless or people trying to buy something illegal.


  3. I lived near the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in one rented locale. I regularly saw a man on a horse with 2 large metal cans strapped on the horse that were indeed milk cans. Milk is sold there in UHT shelf-stable boxes I assume because so many lack refrigeration or in the recent past lacked refrigeration. I bought small bags available in select supermarkets that were from a local agricultural university. The milk was very good, almost as good as the organic stuff here in the U.S. Milk packaged in boxes from Costa Rica was good too. But the run-of-the-mill Honduran milk in refrigerated containers or on the shelf was just terrible-tasting. We figured most Honduran cows were too depressed by the state of affairs in the country to make good milk for us.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We live amidst dairy rancheros, so we often follow or meet the herds on the streets as we come and go from our house. The hind view of cows is not a pretty sight, but I’ve accustomed myself to it. These are not Elsie The Cow, with garlands of daisies. The good part is that if we are ever late to a social engagement, we can say that it was because of herds that we met on the road.

    As far as “sandwiches of sliced banana, mayonnaise and peanut butter “, to each his own. I could do it except for the mayonnaise. That puts it over the edge for me.

    Don Cuevas


    1. Don Cuevas: As you know (I was raised with cows my first six years), cows are not known for wiping their backsides. They just don’t seem to care.

      As for the makeup of those banana sandwiches, I may not have described it accurately. I was scratching my head trying to remember exactly how they were made. I thought I got it right, but who knows?

      I enjoyed pineapple sandwiches too. They definitely required mayo.


      1. Banana sandwich is just bread and sliced banana. Peanut butter and banana sandwich is made by mashing the banana and mixing with peanut butter then spreading on the bread. Also, sliced tomato and mayo sandwich, and even just mayo on bread for those of us really poor folks in the mountains of N. Georgia. Believe it or not I got into trouble with a TI at Lackland for drinking too much milk.



        1. Dan: Just banana and bread, nothing more? Doesn’t sound too inviting. Mayo at least. As for mashing banana to make a sandwich, never did that. Sliced tomato with mayo could be good. Never tried that. I’ve have to be really poor to eat a sandwich with just mayo.

          In New Orleans, I used to down French fry po’ boys, which is to say French fries in a baguette. You’d want some ketchup and/or mayo with that. It’s not too healthy, of course, overload of carbs, and likely had a bit to do with my weighing 225 pounds in New Orleans instead of the svelte 165-170 I weigh now.

          As for the TI at Lackland, I think he was just looking for an excuse to mess with you. Luckily, my two TIs were great guys.


          1. Yes, banana with mayo. Sorry. One TI was great, Sgt. Ennis. But the other, A1C Jose Altamarino, was the *ickhead. Little runt of a guy from Puerto Rico. Big mouth little *ss. Wow, just realized that was 53 years ago this month.


            1. Dan: I arrived at Lackland two months before you. Have you seen this website?


              I’ve looked high and low for my bunch, to no avail just yet.

              My TIs resembled yours except they were both good guys. One was a hulking, ole country boy, former Army, and the other was Latino, also Puerto Rican, I recall.


              1. I arrived September 25, 1962. Had orders to be trained as an air traffic controller until a follow-up physical revealed a “color deficiency”, known then as being color blind. Wound up as an Air Policeman (ramp rat) working in SAC for Curtis Lemay on Lincoln AFB Nebraska (Air Force needs come first they said). Interesting to see some of the old photos of Lackland. I lived in San Antonio 2003-2005 and went by there several times to visit. Did not look like a military installation.

                Liked by 1 person

              2. I was there for the Cuban Missile Crisis with a bunch of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. They asked who spoke Spanish. Nobody raised their hands. I was so glad I had an Anglo name.

                Liked by 1 person

  5. Discovering that the boxed milk was just as good as the bottled stuff was a huge breakthrough for us when we were sailing. Finding 2% milk in boxes … I was thrilled. We don’t drink it by the glass, but we’re oatmeal freaks and we like milk in our coffee. I’ve never seen boxed milk in the States. Maybe they have it in the Mexican specialty stores. But it makes perfect sense for people who don’t drink it by the quart. It never goes bad before you use it up. And you can stock up and keep it for more than a month. Can’t understand why it hasn’t been a big hit in the States.


    1. Bliss: I never saw boxed milk in the U.S. either, but I assumed when writing this that it was now available there even if it’s not the preferred way to do it. I don’t know why I thought that. I have not been in the U.S. in almost seven years, and when I was last there I was not grocery shopping anyway. I guess I made the assumption because it really makes sense and, to me at least, tastes just as good as the stuff kept chilled.

      Perhaps someone who lives above the Rio Bravo can let us know if it’s available, maybe in Whole Foods or some fancy-pants place like that.


    2. I’ve seen non-refrigerated boxed milk in individual/one serving boxes here in Northern California where I live. Haven’t tried it though. I’m pretty sure it’s packaged that way for school lunch bags.


      1. Boxed milk has long been on the shelf alongside the tins of evaporated and condensed milk in the baking section of grocery stores in the US, at least in my neck of the woods. I think it was sold as a camping trip item, etc. Lately, the price and selection is quite reasonable as it used to be an oddity and expensive. With the extinction of diary farms in much of the region due to our wonderful US government interference, a lot of our milk comes from states near Canada so boxed milk is becoming a viable, economical choice in the US.


  6. There is a spot near here where a man and his cow set up for business each morning and people – mostly men – stop by on their way to work. My Mexicana friend told me that he serves a shot of tequila and a shot of milk directly from the cow. Apparently that is very popular here. She grew up on a ranch in northern Mexico and told me that this is an old tradition.


    1. Bonnie: Well, if that don’t beat all. I’ve never seen that, but Mexican guys are fond of adding tequila to lots of things. So this is milk straight from Ole Bossy? Many years ago I tried milk straight from the cow, and I almost gagged, even though I drank it that way as a child on the farm.

      It’s not for me, no matter how much I love milk. Gotta be treated, pasteurized, homogenized, whatever it takes.


  7. I agree. I was the milkshake kid as a teenager. Milk that you get from street vendors has to be Pasteurized. That’s a fancy word that means boil it. When you boil fresh milk the cream forms “Nata” on the top as it cools. Some people have an addiction to it, my wife for one. And I’ve seen it on menus in restaurants, sweet breads with Nata.

    Some scalawags dilute fresh milk with water, I was told this is called “Baptizing the milk.” The closer you are to a dairy community the more likely you are to see street vendors with milk. In Tlaxcala, you can find milk in Tlaxco and a great variety of cheese. In Puebla, the village of Chipilo (just outside of Cholula) is filled with dairy farmers whose descendants came from the Lombard region of Italy over a hundred years ago. And they still speak Italian there. I discovered it’s the best place to buy cornmeal when I make cornbread as they use it for polenta.


    1. Señor Mystic: Thanks for the details. When we were in Mazamitla a couple of weeks ago, we noticed that cheese seemed to be a big deal. Must be a dairy area around there.


  8. Back in the days when milk was home delivered, I often would drink a gallon a day when I came home from school right out of the glass bottle. I also drank plenty of milk in the Air Force.

    In Mexico, I make smoothies in the blender with whole milk, raw eggs and fresh fruit.


    1. Andrés: Sounds like we had a common milk fixation in our youth. But I never make smoothies here. But speaking of smoothies, there’s a restaurant in the state capital called Chai, and it sells the best smoothies I’ve ever had in my life. It’s on Ave. Acueducto.


  9. My favorite dairy product in Mexico is yogurt containing little chunks of strawberries. The yogurt in Mexico has a more liquid consistency.

    I prefer the Danone Activia brand with probiotics. It makes a great snack before going to bed. Yogurt also tastes good in smoothies.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The room temperature shelf stable milk is probably Ultra High Temperature Pasteurized (UHT) as in Europe and, as I’ve read, many organics here in the U.S. Concerning purchasing raw milk here, one workaround in some areas is where you become part owner of a cow and then the USDA does not come into play.

    Ah, the PB&B sandwich. My dad was the one who introduced us to them (along with his attempts at SOS). Definitely w/o mayo on that sandwich. For a sweet & sour take, try using crisp dill pickle chips instead of banana slices. Sounds odd, but don’t knock it til you try it.


    1. Scott: Thanks for the information. As for having to buy your own cow, or part of one, to have raw milk, I imagine that’s further than most folks would be willing to go.

      Dill pickle chip sandwich?! Might want to give that a go. Does sound odd, though.


      1. To clarify: The dill pickle sandwich is peanut butter and dill pickle rather than “and banana”. The PB is the “sweet” as it were and the dill pickle is the sour. It’s creamy, crunchy and it just sort of works.

        As for raw milk, it is less difficult/costly than you might be thinking. There is a nominal, initial “purchase a share of” fee and then a monthly feed cost which equates to however many quarts/gallons of milk you would buy in a month. It’s all done at farmer’s markets, so while the price is somewhat higher than buying mass-produced milk or even regular organics, I don’t believe that it is an outrageous cost.

        Sorry for the delay in responding. For some reason that I have yet to figure out, when I need to re-authenticate with Google+ to post, it often just never connects.


        1. Scott: Thanks for the update. You use Google+ to comment here? I did not know that was even an option. You might want to consider opening a free account with Gravatar. Makes commenting a piece of cake here, there, almost everywhere.


  11. Sadly we got rid of our cows, or actually half of which were stolen, making the decision for us. There is nothing quite as good as fresh raw milk cold from the fridge.

    I was told that the reason Mexico is keeping shelf-stable milk, which I have not purchased yet, is because the mom-and-pop corner tiendas that had the milk in cartons in the fridge would turn the refrigeration off at night to save on the electricity, thereby reducing the life of the milk substantially. I can attest to purchasing some of that milk years ago before figuring out the delivery dates of getting my fresh carton of milk.

    Back in California we were able to buy raw milk in the ’80s and ’90s in bottles from a local dairy. It was great to pop open the top and see and inch of heavy cream plugging up the top of the bottle. I think California banned the raw milk thing soon after. Unless you could get it on the black market from a dairy friend, you would probably be put in jail now for possession.

    Here I see small trucks driving around our burg with large stainless steel cans in the back that they portion out to your own pitcher. Not sure if there is any processing involved.

    Perhaps they sell the high-fat milk, not the stuff that tastes like white water. I’ll try it from the box.



    1. Tancho: It’s incredible that you’ve lived down here all these years, and you’ve yet to try the box milk that is available everywhere. It’s perfectly tasty though others — the high-brow people — might opine otherwise.

      It’s also incredible — to me at least — that you would have had cows. I prefer to simplify life, not the contrary. To each his own.

      That the box milk came into play because the corner stores turned off the electricity at night is a cute story. I don’t believe it for a moment. More Mexican myth.

      As for the trucks that sell milk house-to-house from the cans, if it’s been processed in any way, I’m a monkey’s uncle. Those are people with cows who sell their milk on the street straight from Ole Bossy. I’d bet anything on it. Never asked one of them, but I’d still bet on it.

      Now go make your life easier and buy boxed milk. Try it. You’ll like it. Unless you’re one of those high-falutin’ folks, and you might be where food is concerned.


      1. Just seems not right. It’s probably irradiated, nuked or something. Maybe I’ll try it, but I probably won’t like it.

        We’ll see. I use it on cereal anyway,


        1. Tancho: “I use it on cereal anyway”?! So you do use it, Mister High and Mighty. And probably irradiated, nuked or something? Well, sure. That’s how it can sit on the shelf for weeks at room temp. So what? You’re not some communist hippie, are you? I thought not.

          I too balked at first. But it’s perfectly okay. Pour a glass with waffles and maple syrup. Yum & slurp!


  12. I was curious about this issue: The Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR Sec. 1240.61) mandates pasteurization for all milk and milk products in final package form intended for direct human consumption.

    “No person shall cause to be delivered into interstate commerce or shall sell, otherwise distribute, or hold for sale or other distribution after shipment in interstate commerce any milk or milk product in final package form for direct human consumption unless the product has been pasteurized or is made from dairy ingredients (milk or milk products) that have all been pasteurized…”

    Better not let that black buggy cross the state line. In some states, it is sold as an animal feed. That is a sort of a way around local and state laws.


    1. Señor Gill: Interesting. Sounds like if you keep it local, you can often get away with it.

      When I moved over the border, lo these many years ago, it was common to hear that one should take care with buying cheese, something Mexicans love, because the cheese sold is not pasteurized, or adequately processed in some way or another. It did not take me long to ignore that warning, and I’ve been buying homemade cheese ever since.

      And I’ve yet to die from it. Or even get a tummy ache.


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