The last of a dying breed.
The Milk Diet originated in the 1920’s, the brainchild of a guy named MacFadden. He believed that milk was a kind of super-food which could either supplement your normal diet, or replace it entirely. Milk, at first glance, seems like one of the purest protein-rich foods for omnivores: a cold, tall glass of white nutrients. It’s aesthetically pleasing and you can pretend it’s filled with drugs. Of course milk’s origins are loaded and complicated, but as far as the substance goes, I hadn’t ever pondered it too deeply.
The other day when I was
documenting my lifetrying to take photos for something, not for vanity, you know, I decided that it had been a while since I’d had a tall glass of milk and that that might not be a bad thing to do (in general and in photos, it being the opposite of smoking, which is something I happen to be doing sometimes when I’m caught on film). I poured milk into a mason jar. About a shot and a half looked swell, but when there was a full glass in front of me I felt a little daunted. What’s in there? Well, butterfat, that sounds good. Vitamins, proteins, enzymes, all fine. Sugar, which I enjoy. But then there’s the living white blood cell component, the mammary gland cells, and the bacteria.
I popped a straw in my glass to make things easier.
I remembered being at dinner at a friend’s family’s house in high school. My friend was a vegetarian, a vegetarian who existed mostly on bagels and resisted her parents’ urging to try some edamame or pinto beans, and when we sat down at the table with potatoes and gravy and chicken and vegetables, my friend heaped her plate with a giant lump of mashed potatoes. Then I watched as she dumped a cup and a half of gravy all over them.
“Hey,” I said, “isn’t that gravy?”
“Sure is!” She said. “I can’t have the chicken, so I only eat the gravy!”
I looked at her parents, who stared at me. I did not know it then, but what they were trying to convey to me was: don’t tell her that gravy is made from chicken. Gravy is the only thing she eats besides bagels. Please don’t tell her what’s in gravy.
“But gravy is made from chicken!” I said. “You’re a vegetarian! You can’t have gravy!”
She set her fork down and pushed her plate away. Her parents were distraught. “Please eat something,” they urged her. “The vegetables don’t have chicken in them.”
“I hate vegetables,” she replied. She microwaved a bagel in the kitchen and came back to scoop out its steaming insides in silence while we ate dinner. She was furious with her parents for tricking her. She was furious with me for making her feel a fool (“But we’re fifteen, of course you know what gravy’s made of!”). She was furious at her little brother because he would use this as an argument for her stupidity later that evening.
Do you remember the first time you realized what a hamburger was, or that chicken the animal is the same as chicken the food, or when you stared first into your plate of sushi, and then into the neighboring aquarium filled with carp, and then back again? Even vegans aren’t safe: remember the science experiment from second grade where you popped a plum in a jar and closed the lid and watched, horrified, as a colony fruit flies materialized out of nowhere four days later?
Not from nowhere, I mean. They came from inside the plum.
I dumped the rest of the milk into the sink and got a glass of water. I stared into the water, swimming with sea-monkey-like air bubbles and traces of mercury and bits of rust from the tap.
I had a beer instead.