Growing up as a hippie kid has all sorts of pluses and minuses, mainly related to the uneasy balance between freedom and hygiene. While I can’t speak to the suburban, military or other stereotypical child-rearing formats – for better or worse, parents only get to lay that particular bet the one time – I do suspect they all have their share of credits and debits as well, although I’d also wager that the specific journal entries look a bit different.
Case in point: warm, full udders. Whatever personal history colors the Cleaver kids nostalgic, I seriously doubt that it includes Milk Duty. But anyone who spent a significant slice of the 1970s on a commune deep in Mendocino County will, in addition to the communal barn, the steady diet of sprouts, and the hot tub full of hairy, naked people, have come across a communal source of milk.
For me and my fellow hippies-in-training, milking the goat or cow was simply one of our many community chores; and, quite frankly, one of the better ones – certainly, it beats dishes and anything to do with the words “out” and “house”. Not only is milking kind of fun, but you get to taste the milk itself, warm, sweet, and richly laden with the cream not yet skimmed for butter, straight from the source. It’s not something most of us get to experience very often, and that’s a shame, because fresh milk – really fresh – is as distinct from the homogenized, store-bought variety as a late summer tomato-on-the-vine is from its pale, mealy supermarket phantasm.
The point of this particular trip down flashback lane is that I’ve recently been buying goat’s milk from that little lady up pictured above-right, milk so fresh that the jar is warm to the touch whenever I stop by the farm – Wyeth Acres, about a mile off the Healdsburg Plaza – on my way home from school drop-off. (I should probably mention that the Wyeth website offers the admonition, no doubt to the thrill of grumpy food regulators everywhere, that their milk is “for pet food only”, but that hasn’t stopped me from cooking it into my panna cotta or pouring it over my kids’ breakfast cereal, our federal overseers be damned. So sue me.)
Goats often get a bad rap, but I’m convinced that that has more to do with our lack of familiarity and far less with the actual taste of the stuff, because the American diet simply doesn’t include much goat, either in meat or dairy form. We’re conditioned to think of goat as a pungent, wild sort of flavor, but the milk we’ve been getting is anything but: it’s mild, sweet, and as white as the snow you wake up to. My one caveat is that it spoils quickly – my middle child learned this the hard way – so my suggestion is to buy it the day it was milked, and use it up over the next few days.