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Haftarah Beschalach: Drink Ancient Milk

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What is the color of milk? White, you might think. But actually, milk comes in four different colors. The four colors are light blue, navy blue, green, and red. Light blue was skim milk, navy blue was one-percent, green was two-percent, and red was whole milk. These, at least, were the colors of the milk labels on the supermarket I went to as a child. Honestly, maybe I am not perfectly remembering my childhood milk cartons, but this color-coding system will regardless be forever etched into my memory.

At our house, we always had either skim milk—light blue—or one-percent—dark blue. Never the green two-percent and truly never the red whole milk. Actually, for many years, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as whole milk. One day, I asked my mom what one-percent or two-percent actually meant, as in, one-percent of what? She told me: well, there is actually another milk called whole milk. It’s like the original “milk”—it’s very rich. If you want, I’ll buy it for you sometime, she offered. I didn’t really care that much, as I figured that there was a good reason that this whole milk never once appeared in our refrigerator through my entire childhood and adolescence. So, I didn’t take her up on her offer.

A short time later, I found myself with her at the supermarket. I kept my eye out for this whole milk. She was right. There it was, sitting in the giant supermarket refrigerator alongside the other milks. I can only describe my reaction to it with one word: fear. And the bright red color of its cap and label only reinforced and confirmed my jitters. Red was the color of warning, of danger, of unhealth. Code red. Blood red. Who would drink this milk? I asked myself. I pictured it being drunk by the dregs of society; in my mind’s eye I saw the handicapped, the obese, the junkies chugging jugs of whole milk with their ominous red labels.

It wasn’t always this way. Milk has been drunk by humans for thousands of years. And back then, milk was known by only one color—white. The only milk in town was whole milk; in fact, because it was the only milk in existence, it wasn’t even called whole milk—it was simply called “milk.” Just milk. What changed? As I discussed in life tip #4 on olive oil, the twentieth-century, particularly the late twentieth-century, has seen the introduction of an array of new foods which the world has never witnessed before. Skim milk is one of these. It seems to have been introduced during the war as a way of better supporting soldiers fighting overseas. Everyone agreed it tasted terrible but people sucked it up anyway. By the 1980s, skim milk had been a common purchase at American supermarkets, but it still hadn’t overtaken whole milk. But that would slowly change. In 1980, the USDA cautiously advised substituting skim milk to whole milk if and only if you preferred the taste of skim milk and you desired to reduce your intake of fat. By 1985, however, the USDA emphatically recommended skim milk instead of whole milk. In 1988, low-fat milk sales exceeded whole milk sales for the first time. To this day, public schools are required to serve only non-fat and low-fat milk to students. This requirement was mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 heralded by the otherwise responsible Michelle Obama.

How did this happen? As I see it, there are three reasons, one........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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