I may have mentioned before that I have trouble digesting lactose, and that lately I have been making whole raw milk ice cream. While that sounds contradictory, there is a logic behind my happy consumption of homemade ice cream. Let me explain.
What is a Lactard?
The term lactard originated on the Internet, as far as I can tell, as a self-deprecating way for the lactose-intolerant to refer to their condition. As with the schoolyard taunt of “retard”, lactard implies that there is something inherently wrong with the lactard. Everyone in America drinks milk, right? Well, everyone who produces enough lactase, the enzyme that digests the milk sugar lactose.
Lactose tolerance into adulthood is common in people of Northern European descent, while lactose intolerance is common in people from just about everywhere else. Northern Europeans exhibit this characteristic because we don’t get enough Vitamin D through sunlight or other means. The presence of lactose intolerance among Northern Europeans might be puzzling, until you consider that some geneticists think that a majority of Europeans are descended from Genghis Khan, the great Mongol invader. The presence of lactose intolerance could be traced back to the Mongol invaders, though that is merely speculation on my part.
Whatever the reason for my lactose intolerance, I am a member of the majority of human adults who have trouble consuming cow’s milk that is not already partly digested. Cheese, yogurt, and fermented milk are some of the forms in which milk is consumed by those who cannot drink it straight.
Tilting at Milk Carriers
Milk and I have an odd history, beginning with a fall on a metal milk carrier that nearly took my eye. This was in the days when bottles of milk were delivered and picked up from people’s homes, not long after the last ice age.
My mother, the Mom of La Muncha, gave me milk as a child even though she knew that I had trouble digesting the cow juice. My early formulas were soy based, but as a child and teen I ate a lot of cereal with milk. For a time, I thought that raisins caused my stomach to rumble, but eating raisins alone caused me no problems. I did not hear about lactose intolerance until I was in my 20s, when a friend from college was diagnosed with the ailment. Why did Mom of La Muncha continue to give me milk? She thought I needed the calcium and vitamins. Mothers are odd, especially when they mean well.
However, lactose intolerance does not mean that I cannot digest all milk. I can’t digest as much lactose as is present in industrial milk, but I can manage big scoops of Devonshire cream, which is 50 percent fat. The reason, a friend argues, is that a higher percentage of fat means a lower percentage of lactose sugars. He may be right.
Industrial vs. Raw Milk
According to Nina Planck, raw milk contains lactase which helps us to digest the lactose in milk, but the heat of pasteurization inactivates lactase (and other beneficial enzymes). This is one reason why we should drink raw milk. For other reasons why to drink raw milk, check out Planck’s book Real Food.
I decided to experiment on myself with raw milk, to see what would happen. “So what,” you say. “It’s milk. It won’t kill you.” I last had milk (industrial milk) 10 years ago at an ex-girlfriend’s house, and the resulting stomach discomfort lasted for 24 hours and made me want to rip out my stomach.
The Butter Bitch started buying raw milk a couple of months ago. The raw milk we buy comes from Guernsey and Jersey cows, which produce milk higher in butterfat than industrial milk from Holstein cows. I warned the Butter Bitch of my intention to drink a full glass of milk, since she has to live with me in our small home. We have a spare room I could sleep in, but being around me after I had milk could be an aromatic and noisy experience.
Drinking milk after a 10-year hiatus was a strange experience. Raw milk is sweet and heavy like cream and is chock full of calories and vitamins. The initial glass caused a rush of energy, and as I continued to drink milk over the course of a week I realized that drinking a glass of milk curbed my cravings for coffee. I usually drink one or two pots of coffee a day, but raw milk gave me a different kind of buzz. At one point, I turned to the Butter Bitch and described the milk as addictive.
What surprised me the most was that I felt no side effects. My stomach did not grumble once during the entire week. I did reduce the amount of milk consumed as my ice cream consumption rose, and when I eat a heavy meal (typically beef) I crave milk less. I did not explode during that week. Ballard was safe.
Things to Know About Raw Milk
Before you run out to buy a quart of raw milk, there are a number of things to know. While some of us may rely on our partner’s non-death as a sign that drinking raw milk is okay, the rest of you should do some reading.
Raw milk is not pasteurized, which means that bacteria–harmful or beneficial–may be present. Critics of raw milk say that it may contain fecal matter or that the milk may be contaminated during the milking process.
Defenders of raw milk say that raw milk is safe as long as producers maintain clean facilities, and that raw milk naturally contains beneficial bacteria that counter dangerous bacteria. Additionally, raw milk defenders point out that harmful bacteria may grow on pasteurized milk that is handled improperly.
Anyone who wants to drink raw milk should consider the risks and benefits, and verify that the source of their milk is certified by a state agency. Improperly produced and handled milk can contain bacteria that are lethal to children and those with compromised immune system.
Washington State recommends that consumers buy raw milk only from farmers licensed by the Washington State Department of Agriculture. The Butter Bitch and I have enjoyed milk from Sea Breeze Farm and Grace Harbor Farms.