"No European who has tasted Savage Life can afterwards bear to live in our societies." — Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Milk: The Perfect Food?

To a traditional Indian yogi, milk is considered the perfect food. It is so revered that the maker of the substance, the cow, is considered holy; when you visit an Indian city, you'll see cows wandering around, munching on grass here and there, like stray cats in American cities. Some yogis only drink milk; that is their diet, without solid food of any kind. They say it is the only physical food that they need.

In the United States, milk is considered a poison, full of harmful little beasties like tuberculosis and salmonella. So, we boil it mercilessly. We shatter its structure because we want the entire container to be of uniform density; no cream on top for us, thanks. If you drink raw, unprocessed milk, you are believed to have a deathwish.

I'll guaran-damn-tee you that those Indian yogis haven't been pasteurizing and homogenizing their milk for thousands of years. They wander up to one of those docile, feral cows, milk them a bit, and exchange devotion and love for that cup of sustenance. Here in the United States, we cage them, feed them unbelievable meals (such as the remnants of their relatives - bones, brains, meat), and their milk is stolen from them via machine. If you "are what you eat", then these cows are made of disgust, capitalism, and poison. No wonder our milk supply is so bad for us.

This system is propped up by outdated and unfair laws which prohibit raw milk from going pretty much anywhere. In some states, raw milk is effectively close to illegal; it must be processed immediately before it can even leave the premises of the dairy. Yet, if you own your own animal, you can drink the milk from it; it is, after all, your own property. In some states (such as Colorado), this leads to "milk co-ops"; you buy a share of a herd of cows, and you are entitled - as an owner - to a portion of their milk. The plus side: most co-ops don't pasteurize or homogenize their milk; even if they do, you can often still request raw milk.

If you've never had raw, unprocessed milk still warm from the teat, you have missed something wonderful. I'm not a regular drinker of milk, but I love butter, ghee, and ice cream. Yet, after reading more about milk, "modern" milk, etc., I wonder if raw milk would be good for me. According to Ayurveda, my constitution (50% pitta) benefits greatly from the cooling, soothing, and nourishing aspects of milk. Milk is a sattvic food, assisting in meditation and self-realization.

In the past few days, I've eaten probably a pint of ice cream to myself. When I was younger, I would eat a pint of ice cream in one sitting - almost every night. Yes, you heard that correctly. I liked the cold, moistening sweetness. Some people like ice cream with "things" in it; I prefer simple vanilla (a few simple nuts thrown in for textural balance is fine, too; my current favorite is Haagen-Dazs "Vanilla Swiss Almond"). This is obviously for my constitution: cool for the pitta, sweet for the pitta, moistening for the pitta. Of the doshas, I have the least of kapha, so it doesn't seem to aggravate that too much.

I think eating the ice cream lately has brought dairy to the forefront of my mind. We've also made a couple of pints of ghee lately, and have been cooking with it (if you've not cooked with ghee, go get some right now!). The place we buy meat also has milk (both cow and goat) from a raw dairy. So, we have a source, and it's reasonably inexpensive for what some consider a "perfect food". Modern agricultural practices have always bothered me, but none so much as how we treat our cows and chickens; it's abominable. Buying from a local co-op allows me to see how it's produced and to get an idea of the ingredients of the milk. Is it made from "anger, disgust, and violence" or "love, care, and respect"?

If you think that "attitude during preparation" doesn't matter, bake a pie for your worst enemy; think about them the whole time, remember why you hate them, and talk out loud about how you'd like to hurt them. Then, bake a pie for your closest loved one; remember them, smile, talk about how wonderful they are. I'll guarantee you that the second pie will not only taste better, but would be more nourishing, both physically and energetically. This is often the reason why a daily dinner may taste "just OK", but a Thanksgiving meal tastes like the best food on the planet. Both Ayurveda and Zen have strict kitchen procedures and rituals to promote good energy around the food and its preparation, and it pays off.

Ayurvedic medicine also uses "milk decoctions"; herbs are steeped in warm milk, which is then drunk as a medicine. Medicated ghee is also used. Maybe I'll have to try to come up with "Ayurvedic ice creams", as they seem to be non-existent. ;-)

So, is milk a "perfect food"? No, I don't think so. This universe isn't perfect, so nothing within it can be perfect (some people may argue this point, but it's my point-of-view at the moment). But, can a single food provide a lot of what someone needs? Absolutely, it can. So, I wonder if all of our dairy intolerance issues in the U.S. stem from not the milk itself, but the energies implanted into it during its production. The processing itself could definitely cause issues, but so can the hate, disgust, and profiteering. We in the west usually forget - or actively discount - this. If we do, we do so to our detriment.

I think I'll find out more about that raw milk co-op. I think it's time to experiment with good, wholesome milk for a while, and to test the yogic theory of "milk as the perfect food".