When we arrived at the farm the last of the cows were being milked. They were quiet and massive. Their movements were cumulative, a collective shifting from hoof to hoof or a sequenced wave of tails flicking flies. I was shyer then and it took some coaxing, but eventually I sat on the three legged stool by my Nana and gingerly placed a hand around one of the cow's teats. I jerked my hand back. The udder was soft, coated in a light fuzz of hair, and it was hot! Nana laughed and wrapped her hand over mine, showing me how to squeeze and pull (no I wouldn't hurt her) so the milk would spray into the pail below. Try it, Nana said, when we had emptied the last cow's udder. She helped me lift and tilt the pail. It smelled of hay and of animal and of butter. I took a sip. It was hot still from the cow's body. It was rich and creamy but left none of the coating on my tongue that I hated so much. It had the faintest taste of field, the sweetness you find at the juicy end of a blade of grass, pulled from its leaves and placed between your teeth.
It's a passionate debate and the claims on both sides are equally bold, defensive, frightening and propganda-ish. After reading arguments about the dangers of raw milk and the benefits of raw milk, I decided to try some raw milk myself and see what all the fuss is about. It isn't easy to get your hands on unpasteurized dairy in most states but luckily, in California, you can find it in a surprising number of grocery stores. I bought a heavy glass bottle from Claravale Farm. It was beading with moisture. I could see the thick inch of cream at the top. I was excited already. I barely got out of the store before I tore off the plastic top and took a swig. It was cold and creamy but clean and light. No coating of my tongue, and again, that slightly sweet, grassy taste. It was delicious. Over the next few days I ate it poured over berries, in my granola, or slugged straight out of the bottle. I did not get sick from a pathogen. I did feel like I was drinking something whole and complete and truly healthy.
Do you have experiences with raw dairy? What side of the debate are you on? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!