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Jeff Pours Himself a Strong One

No. I am not revising this book. I am not tinkering at the margins. I am rewriting it mostly from scratch, and the farther along I get, the more mostly the rewriting gets, and the closer to uttermost scratch. I am now about 2/3 of the way through Chapter 9, of 13; and 113,000 words in, of about 175,000. It has to be done by June 30. I was always a pretty ruthless writer. In recent days I’ve begun feeling desperate.

A little while ago, I thought to myself, damn, you need a drink. So I went to the fridge and poured myself a strong one when Carol wasn’t looking. It was strong indeed, stronger than anything I think I’ve ever had. Not wanting to slam back too much, I grabbed one of the little 4-ounce plastic Tupperware water glasses, and filled it about three quarters of the way up with…whole milk. Not skim. Not 1%. Not 2%. The whole she-4%-bang. Eight proof–if any of my friends are drinking that hard these days, I haven’t heard about it. But then, in my desperation, I pulled down the little half-pint carton of heavy cream from which I take a few hazardous drops in my coffee every morning, and I filled the rest of the glass with it. Two quick spins with a teaspoon, and I held in my trembling hands a species of white lightning I have never tasted before. I raised it to my lips, and thought, moderation is for monks! Five or six gulps later, it was gone.

Oh. My. God.

This is a dangerous formula. It recalls my heedless days as a very young man (no more than seven or eight) when I would have a bigger glass of something almost this strong every single morning–and then another one when I got back back home after a hard day diagramming sentences and saving pagan babies. It reminds me of many things, including drinking melted vanilla ice cream with a straw at Aunt Josephine’s house one day when one of my cousins left the carton on the kitchen table too long one afternoon in July. Still cold; barely liquid; flowing, but under protest–and going down felt like wiping your throat with an expensive silk scarf. It reminds me of milk from my dairy farmer uncle’s refrigerator in Green Bay, which had still been inside the cow at 5 AM that morning. Smooth. Intoxicating. Satisfying. Almost beyond description.

Mostly it reminds me of what milk used to be. The day was when we didn’t cringe in terror at milk with 4% butterfat–we paid the milkman to leave it on the porch three times a week. 5% milk from Jersey cows bred to give richly could be bought from Hawthorn Mellody Farms at a premium. And the cereal commercials all said, “Great with milk or cream!” Picture yourself pouring table cream over a bowl of Cheerios. I don’t think you can. (I had trouble myself, and I’m a good imaginer.)

So. Are you man (or woman) enough to reclaim your heritage? Are you courageous enough to stop seeing all fat as radioactive waste? Can you do it?

Damn, that was good. You won’t know how good until you try it yourself. But be careful: Whole milk is not for sissies.


  1. Rich, N8UX says:

    Admitting that you’re powerless over whole milk, and that your life has become unmanageable, is the first step.


  2. Actually, I tried this, or something like it, just now. When my glass of milk had reached the last inch or so, I poured in a teaspoon or so of heavy whipping cream. Jeff’s spot on here. As a kid who grew up on powdered milk, my experience with real milk is remarkably limited. It does make a difference.

    If you like that, and you like milk in your coffee, try using cream in it instead. And when you try it, put a little in at a time until it tastes right. You’ll find you use a lot less.

    One wonders if there’s not a huge correlation between the last 30 years’ anti-fat posturing of dietary (pseudo)science and the present trend toward obesity. After all, fat carries /flavor/ and if you get less flavor, you eat more.


    1. It doesn’t take much cream to make for good coffee, and yes, you have to do some taste titration until you know instinctively how much to tip into your mug in the morning.

      The whole business of fat vs. appetite is fairly simple: Fats satiate. Carbs don’t. I can eat potato chips or cookies until they’re gone. (I did a lot of that a couple of weeks back when Mike died, and brought home four pounds I didn’t leave with.) I can’t do that with cheese, eggs, or even almonds. There comes a point when this little voice somewhere inside you says, “No more!” and means it. Herman Taller talks about this in his 1961 book, Calories Don’t Count, which is worth reading, and came about before the big flip-flop from sugar-as-villain to fat-as-villain. It’s a perspective you don’t see much today.

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