University Food Culture (3)

The much lamented Dutch lunch habit of drinking milk with sandwiches can sometimes be liberating too. Recently a student from Ecuador told me how much she enjoyed not being stared at while drinking milk with lunch. As a nutritionist she knows that milk is a perfect food as it “is the most complete source of nutrition available “(Dupuis 2002:25). However, in her home context milk is associated with baby food or with weak and sick people. Drinking milk with a meal as an adult is frowned upon as inappropriate behaviour.


Once, this was the case in our country too. Unfortunately little to nothing is known about the diet of ordinary people during the middle ages, but what we know of lords, knights and kings – the elite at that time –  is that there was a similar taboo on drinking milk here too. Culturally inappropriate, not least because of milk being highly perishable, people mainly drank beer. Urbanisation and industrialization were two important factors which helped milk to its current status of a healthy drink in the USA shows Melanie DuPuis in her great book ‘Nature’s perfect food’. Very much a token of the Dutch lunch culture, drinking a glass of milk is a habit which is only about 150 years old.

And as anthropologist Wiley shows, there is currently a similar relationship between urbanization and fresh milk consumption appearing in China. Growth in milk consumption is largely happening in urban areas and mainly consumed by Chinese upper classes. Milk is now commonly available as an alternative to alcoholic beverages in urban restaurants in China and is associated with a number of beneficial features such as trendy Western food styles, increased body length, healthy teeth and the prevention of ageing (Wiley 2007).

1 thought on “University Food Culture (3)

  1. I’m surprised to hear something good about dairy milk!

    In the USA it mostly comes from cows that are fed genetically modified pesticide-sprayed grains. These cows themselves are injected with too many antibiotics and steroids, and are often not allowed out of their stall. Some cows have been bred and steroided to where they literally cannot walk! They just perch in their stalls, eating, evacuating, and giving milk.

    The milk that does come is homogenized and pasteurized, meaning if there’s bad milk in one cow it will be mixed with that of 1000 others in the dairy. These processes, as done, take out much of the naturally beneficial nutritive aspects of the milk. Plus, Monsanto, and probably others, happily add an ingredient that is barred in Europe but banned in Europe–a carcinogenic substance!!

    So, in the USA right now, health-conscious people are staying away from milk, particularly dairy milk. (And hopefully not replacing it with beer!)

    P.S. What of the people who are born lactose intolerant? They add another dimension.

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