I grew up on good old-fashioned whole milk. The thicker the better. I loved how it used to coat my tongue. In elementary school, I always opted for the carton of plain milk over chocolate.
Not that I didn’t like chocolate milk. My parents used to buy Nestlé Quik, strawberry and chocolate flavored. And Ovaltine. It was annoying how the Ovaltine defiantly refused to dissolve into the milk. Small pockets of the powder just floated on the surface. Not so with Nestlé Quik.
Sugar wasn’t forbidden in our house, so my brothers and I added Nestlé Quik to our cereal, whether we were eating boring corn flakes or Frosted Flakes. The best part was drinking the leftover, extra sweet milk straight from the bowl after the cereal was finished.
We made homemade milkshakes by adding milk to whatever ice cream was in the freezer: strawberry, vanilla, Neapolitan. I didn’t like to make mine thin enough to sip through a straw. I preferred to scoop it with a spoon. I drink tea the same way (at home).
My father bought nearly every soda on the market, and I drank them all, but by far my favorite drinks were milk and orange juice. Even as an adult, I’d pour myself a cold glass of milk to enjoy with dinner—when I got to enjoy a homemade dinner.
I was an adult student throughout my twenties. I was always on the go with my full- and part-time jobs and night classes. My fine dining was fast food. Fast food led to high cholesterol. High cholesterol meant no more whole milk.
It was a sad time.
First I went down to 2%, 1%, then skim. The first two were tolerable, but skim was downright disgusting. It looked like cloudy water; it tasted like diluted milk. Missing was the refreshing creamy taste.
I switched to soy. Disgusting again. For breakfast I ate bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios or Raisin Bran with a sliced banana, which helped the taste. A little. I switched to vanilla soy. It was a whole new world.
I discovered rice and almond milks at Trader Joe’s. Like soy, I sampled the original before making the switch to vanilla. There was never an instance when the vanilla wasn’t better.
Sampling the various milks out there, I’ve tried coconut, cashew, almond-coconut, almond with honey. The creamier the better, especially for smoothies. In that department, cashew wins, but when it comes to taste I miss soy.
Soy was the default for over ten years, but soy products started getting a bad rap, so almond took its place. Now that I pay attention to serving size, I don’t pour much into my bowls of cereal. There’s no point—it’s not whole milk.
I’m not lactose intolerant, but funny enough, if I have cow milk when visiting my aunt back home—she absolutely refuses to switch despite her cries of wanting to lose weight and be healthier—my stomach feels strange. Thankfully, there are no adverse effects as I continue to enjoy other dairy, like cheese, yogurt and on rare occasion, ice cream. I wonder what would happen with goat milk, which I have yet to try.