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One Man's Quest For Unpasteurized Milk

April 10, 2010

Kevin Burke
One Man's Quest For Unpasteurized Milk

When I realized that lots of people drank unpasteurized milk in India, I knew I had to try it. Unpasteurized or raw milk is hard to get in the US, and illegal in 22 states. Microbes in the milk, if unkilled, can proliferate rapidly and give the drinker bad diseases. But it's possible to get it in India, where there are more lax regulations, and less giant dairy firms. Some organic nuts claim that there are health benefits from drinking raw milk, and feed it to their kids. That's stupid logic, but most aficionados claim that raw milk tastes better than pasteurized milk, which has been boiled at high temperatures, which is why I'm interested. (You can easily categorize people by the type of milk they drink. Nondrinkers have weak minds and weaker bodies; most of them will get osteoporosis by the time they reach 50. I have respect for whole fat milk drinkers, who appreciate the creamy taste and streaks down the side of their cup after they take a sip. Nonfat drinkers are generally sensible people. Two percent drinkers are wafflers, as indecisive in life as they are in their choice of milks. As E-40 likes to say, go hard or go home.)

Knowing that Indians drink raw milk does not get me any closer to figuring out where I can get it; I have no idea where I can find my dairy grail. I imagine slipping a ten rupee note to an eleven year old, who sends me around the corner to collect a cracked, dirty bottle. Or luring a cow down an alley with some fresh cud, then donning gloves and milking it.

Instead I headed to a nearby dairy shop and asked, in English, if they had unpasteurized milk. I get blank stares. "Unpasteurized, you know, untreated milk." The odds are high that people who sell milk without first sterilizing it have no idea what the word 'unpasteurized' means. So I ask my friend Abhilasha if she'll help me. Abhilasha is a sensible girl who recently graduated from Rutgers with a degree in biology, who probably understands why milk is pasteurized. "Why do you want to do that?" she asks me. This is a crucial test. I tell her you don't get to try it everyday and I'm curious to see what it tastes like.

The next day we head back to the dairy shop and ask if they have unpasteurized milk. The shopkeeper makes the same face Abhilasha did when I told her I wanted to try it, and says no. We ask where we can get it in Udaipur, but he says he doesn't know. Undaunted, we try the next shop down the street; they have no idea either. At the third shop we try, they let slip that you can get it in Suraj Pol, halfway across town. Now we have a name; I'm thrilled. Abhilasha looks bemused.

Before heading over, we duck into a thali place to eat lunch. At twenty five rupees, and with flies constantly buzzing around, this is the cheapest thali place in town, but it's good enough to earn a visit every ten days or so. Abhilasha asks, out of curiosity, if they have "freshmilk." Unbelievably, the owner says yes, he gets it from a nearby village. I order two glasses.

Indians don't drink cold milk, so we wait awhile for our glasses to cool. It smells stronger than normal milk. Finally we clink glasses and take a taste. Maybe it's just the amount of time I've spent thinking about it, but the milk is a sort of combination of liquid Babybel and whole milk, entirely drinkable, and it balances out the spice from the thali we've been eating.

So if you get a chance to try unpasteurized milk, you should. It's not gonna make me keep my own cow in the backyard or anything, but it's a novelty drink.

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