Monday, November 24, 2014


 I love the cow. The cow gives us milk. And butter. And cheese. The cow goes moo.

 An old bowl of sturdy plastic, the words in a never-ending ring around the rim, round and round, letters and childish drawings covering the bowl in bright primary colors, blue, red, green, black. I love the cow. It was once part of a set, the chunky mug cracked and discarded years ago, when our son was still small, and the plate is long stained with the dregs and runoff of so many plant pots that replaced years of childhood meals.

 I love the cow. The cow gives us milk. And butter. And cheese. The cow goes moo. How many thousands, millions of times have we chanted these words as the bowl, the dish and the mug were set in front of one son and then his little brother? Like mealtime grace, we sang these words over and over again as the first spoon or fork was lifted bringing food to an eager (or not so eager) little mouth.
 Our son loved dairy, so this gift of plate, bowl and mug from his grandma was perfect! Yogurt, petit Suisse, milk and ice cream. But cheese! He was eating cheese like the Frenchman that he was since he could request it and before. Papa's pinkie dipped in creamy, tangy goat cheese or nutty Camembert and pushed between son's lips might very well have been his first solid food. The only photo of him I have at the table was when he first began feeding himself and happy eater that he always was you can bet his face was beaming, a grin from ear to ear. And that photo? Spoon clutched in his fist and fruity yogurt smeared ear to ear.

 He's all grown up now and still ends most meals with a chunk or three of cheese and an ice cream. But the mug is long gone and the plate is now a stand for a planter but the bowl, which passed from one so to second son, is now on the ground, sitting on a mat placed on the floor of the back room and filled with dog kibble. From one son to second son to pup goes the cow. And the dog loves dairy, too, although he was only offered little cubes of cheese when he was small. For the calcium so his ears would stand up and his little front paws would straighten.

Dear Dairy,

 It's common knowledge (it is!) that my mother's side of the family adore ice cream. Adore ice cream? They would live on ice cream if they could and I know that once 80 comes and goes, the diet almost exclusively consists of ice cream. But my father loved ice cream, too. The freezer never lacked for ice cream, large gallon rectangles in one, two, three flavors nestled in the sub-zero mist next to a tub of non-dairy whipped topping. And dad would indulge most every night. My father had a monumental sweet tooth and it was often let loose on a bowl of ice cream.

 He loved Dairy Queen. He would pack his brood of children into the station wagon and treat us all to a chocolate-dipped soft serve cone, picking up a box of Dilly Bars, chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream on a stick (round rather than the more ordinary rectangle), his favorite of them all, to bring home and keep in the freezer.

 Dad loved Dairy Queen although he never called it that. For some odd reason we never understood he always referred to it as Dairy Dip and we kids laughed and laughed and teased him about it forever.

 Many long years after dad passed away, so did the Dairy Queen, his Dairy Dip, passing away into memory as the building and every trace of it disappeared. But those memories, of dad eating Dairy Queen and laughing, quiet, loving man.

You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk.

 I grew up on the fringe of kosher. My parents, both raised in strictly kosher homes, were rather lax by the time they moved to and settled in Florida with three kids in tow. But meals at the synagogue, Bar Mitzvah buffets, snacks after Sabbath services, food for the kids during High Holiday Services, picnics and carnivals, the kitchen itself, were rigorously kosher, saw a stricter than strict division of dairy and meat.

 And holidays meals at the Rosenberg's, whether Thanksgiving or Passover, were kosher, dairy and meat separated.

 Rules relaxed, my parents nonetheless habituated us to some kind of separation of dairy and meat. We never drank milk with a meat meal, for example, and we still don't. But butter and sour cream on the mashed potato that accompanied a steak gradually snuck in. Parmesan cheese sprinkled atop spaghetti and meatballs. Moussaka with both lamb and milky béchamel.

 But dairy and meat never the twain shall meat, could never be served at the same meal when grandpa visited. "Do NOT ask for butter for your baked potato tonight!" my mother hissed her warning to us during grandpa's visit one summer. Dairy does not mix with meat!

 And thus I learned the existence of non-dairy whipped topping and non-dairy creamer for coffee.

 Dairy cows lined up in their stalls, lowing placidly, rhythmically ruminating, seemingly content even as the temperature dipped, even as the afternoon glided into evening misty and damp. Dairy cows in the barn pressed up close to the old stone house. We were living in Italy and decided to take the boys away for a weekend and found ourselves at a gîte ensconced deep in the Tuscan countryside. We were staying in the humble abode of a window and her three sons who together ran the family farm, humble in itself, an old stone structure connected to the barn, the old fashioned way of life. Dairy cows and humans keeping each other warm throughout the bitter winter.

 Nights, we huddled together in one room in an addition along the side of the family's home, falling asleep to the rhythm of the chatting of our own teeth and the lovely music of silence, the stillness of the country. Days, we would bundle up in layers of sweaters, scarves and coats, slip on rubber boots and take our little boys out to roam, an adventure, discovering the beasts of the farm and the culinary gems hidden in trees surrounding the farmland, mushrooms and chestnuts and such. Mealtimes, we would join the family in the kitchen at the long farm table, room enough for the four of us, the mother and her sons, smelling of the barn, straw clinging to sweaters, faces weather beaten and sun browned, hands rough, rugged from farm work.

 Mornings, we would be served milk fresh from the cows. Mamma would pass into the barn and return with the milk, which she would then boil before pouring into bowls, one for each of us. Glasses of farm fresh milk direct from the dairy cows.

 Italy, latticini. Fresh mozzarella and great wheels of Parmeson (cut before our very eyes at our favorite cheese counter), creamy taleggio and gorgonzola (like no French bleu), often layered oh-so decadently, richly with mascarpone, almost dessert. And gelato. Oh gelato (like no ice cream anywhere!).

I have been interested in butter making since I was a child; one of my aunts used to make it on her farm and I would watch her sit in the kitchen working the wooden churn. I eventually discovered that you could do it in a more modern way the time my brother was a little too ambitious with the electric whisk and managed to make butter out of the cream he was whipping. My mother wasn't as enthusiastic as I was as it was Sunday and that was the cream that was supposed to go on the Sunday dinner dessert. Making butter at home is really easy and the butter is sooo good, sweet and buttery. I prefer to make fresh, unfermented butter because it has such a pure flavour. And making butter also means that you get fresh buttermilk so it is really a winning situation!

makes 400 g/14 ounces

1 litre/4,25 cups fresh cream

   Put the fresh cream in a bowl, be it a normal one or the one of a stand mixer which is what I used. (You can use an electrical whisk, whisk by hand or even put the cream in a bottle with something inside it and then shake shake shake.) Whisk until the cream has separated into butter and buttermilk, it takes some time but that obviously depends on how fast you whisk.

   Drain the buttermilk into another bowl (don't throw it away, use it for a cake or something) and put the butter part in another. Now it is time to rinse the butter of all the buttermilk so that it will keep better, I take smaller pieces of the butter and work it with my hands under cold, running water. When you have rinsed all the butter, make a ball of it and and press it until no more water comes out of it. I recommend chilling your hands under very cold water now and then because the butter melts easily.

   Now put the butter into an airtight container and if you don't want to use it all in one go, you can always freeze it.


  1. I love dairy and cows too, but I'm not a big fan of ice cream (I enjoy ice creams, yet I very seldom crave them. Strange!).

    Another fantastic post! You make me like Mondays...



  2. How I miss Italian cheeses, butter and milk! Nothing this side of the ocean compares, sorry to say. Thank you for this lovely Monday morning ode. xo

  3. Goodness Jamie and Ilva, I am booking now a dairy trip to Italy! I haven't tried most of the things you are talking about, at least not the genuine ones.
    And Ilva, this photo of the mozzarella looks like a newborn - beautiful and pure!

  4. I never saw a zebra-striped cow, but I really hope to see one (smile). And I can tell you anyhow, I'd also like to be one (just for a little while)!