Gut Instinct: A Trip Down Mammary Lane

I was a wee lad when the milk incident occurred.

“Come here, Josh,” my dad called from the living room. My parents sat on the wooden couch as Mom breast-fed my womb-fresh brother, Jonathan. Dad gazed fondly at the feasting cherub.

“Come closer,” my father urged. I inched forward, eager to share in the tender, familial tableau. I smiled. This is what it felt like to be loved! My father also grinned, his eyes glinting with a malicious glee I was too young to recognize and dread. Then, like a quick-draw gunslinger, my mother pointed a breast like a pistol and squeezed. A milky stream shot through the air, painting my smooth freckled face white.

I stood there, a stunned and sodden 6-year-old. Laughter filled the room. I ran to the bathroom to towel clean, my brain spinning with a question still haunting me today: Why did Mommy shoot me with her breast milk?

“Well, that certainly explains far too much about your childhood,” my girlfriend says.

“A nice creation myth, eh?” I say. “And I haven’t even told you about the cashew chicken and the garden hose.”

“Uh, later,” she says, mortified by the secrets that occasionally slither out. “Is that why you don’t drink milk? You know I need milk for my coffee.”

Sigh. A fierce sticking point is my refusal to facilitate my girlfriend’s sweet-and-milky coffee addiction. I prefer my coffee as dark and bitter as my soul. Why spoil perfection? Grade-A java (I favor Gorilla Coffee’s strong, chocolate-and-berry nuances) is best unadulterated. Do you coat Peter Luger porterhouse with ketchup?

“I choose not to drink milk,” I say. “I don’t dislike it.” Such hatred is reserved for my college roommate Geoff. As a kid, he accidentally spilled a bowlful of cereal-soggy milk over his clothes. He was soaked to his Underoos. Nowadays a mere whiff of 2 percent causes him to dry heave.

“Well, just this once, can you buy milk? I bought the toilet paper.” She looks at me accusingly, as if my overworked bowels alone cause our rapid toilet-paper depletion.

“Fine, fine,” I agree. For the sake of household harmony, I agree to purchase milk. I do love that double-ply. To appease my girlfriend, I could easily nab a gallon at the local Key Food. However, its homogenized offerings taste like dyed water. I prefer whole milk that’s crowned with a thick creamy cap.

During my formative years in southern Ohio, my family rewarded good grades with an outing at Young’s Jersey Dairy. At the functioning farm visitors could pet goats (or feed them gravel, which I found endlessly thrilling), eat homemade peppermint ice cream and buy udder-fresh milk. We’d always bring home a gallon. I recall scooping the fat cap into my father’s coffee and sipping cool mugs of this velvety, dessert-decadent beverage—until a couple killjoys contracted salmonella, causing Young’s to curtail its milking. But I digress.

The first name in non-homogenized Greenmarket milk is Ronnybrook Farm Dairy. I adore their drinkable blackberry yogurt (a great several-buck breakfast) and Creamline milk. It’s as fatty and flavorful as my favorite childhood milk—cow, not mammary. My girlfriend and I traipse to Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza farmers’ market one recent Saturday. Our sights are set on Ronnybrook.

“Sorry, boss, fresh out,” an employee says, shrugging. He motions to the culprits: stroller-pushing parents perusing verdant veggies. We shuffle away to sample blueberries, whereupon we bump into our pal Jennie. She’s a librarian and amateur cook. I explain our heartbreak.

“Have you tried Milk Thistle?” she asks. It’s a family-owned organic dairy farm from upstate New York (they also sell at Union Square’s Friday market). “The free-range cows are grass-fed, making the milk amazingly complex and flavorful.”

“Are they selling today?”

“Right around the corner.” I leave her words dangling and dash to the Milk Thistle stand. No latte-loving Park Sloper will grab the last jug.

“What do you have?” I ask several earnest, fresh-faced workers.

“What do you want?”

A half-gallon of 2 percent. Though I favor whole milk, my girlfriend prefers excess calories in chocolate form.

“Five dollars.”

Five smackers? It’d be cheaper to guzzle gasoline. But then I think of our soft, forgiving toilet paper and my recent preference for salads. I open my wallet and purchase the coffee additive. Back home we crack the carafe and pour a thick sample. It’s nuanced and nutty, with a rich, lip-smacking sweetness. This is milk I’d be honored to have sprayed on my face.