Milk is now trendy. It is definitively the new “it” food, according to Lessley Anderson of Chow.com. Not because there has been any monumental or compositional shift in what constitutes milk, but simply because we, as humans, are hungry (or in this case, thirsty) for reinvention and ballyhoo.
According to the piece titled, “Designer Milk: The New ‘It’ Food,” milk has been adopted by chefs around the country who are eager to exploit and ennoble the elemental extraction that is simply milk. Celebrity chefs David Chang of Momofuku in New York City, has embraced milk in his recent elaboration of the Momofuku concept, Momofuku Milk Bar. There is a milk bar in Chelsea Market in Manhattan, and the New York Times recently directed their culinary eye toward the trend of alcoholic milk shakes. But beyond New York City (which is a world onto itself), there have been countless other milk-based developments and outbreaks of dairy-laced hype throughout the country.
Artisan and decidedly experimental ice cream shops dot the United States with a fresh, if not whimsical take, on ice cream and milk products, and yogurt (which ran the risk of being killed off by its association with the 70s decade) is also becoming a niche ingredient.
In addition, there has been much ink spilled on the subject of raw milk recently, and the legions of the faithful that are willing to take a bullet (or at least get a tummy ache) for the right to drink the contraband. While the raw milk debate may be somewhat polarizing, it is fair to say that milk, while maybe not quite the “it” food it is purported to be, is apparently having somewhat of a moment in the limelight.
This is interesting, not because it says anything about milk per se, but because it reveals how we, as a hunger-obsessed and pleasure fixated lot, are always in love with the idea of recreation and lost, or overlooked, value in what we chose to consume. Milk, for many years, was very much maligned by health advocates and a portion of the medical establishment because of its negative impact on the body (constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, chronic sinusitis and allergies being just some of the medical problems associated with milk consumption) and the milk industry (at least the industrial wing of that industry) was revealed to be less than wholesome with their deplorable standards and practices.
Chevy Chase on milk
In the 90s we got the Got Milk campaign, which did much to get people talking about milk (and the clever ad campaign) but didn’t really do much to counter the fear that milk did not, in fact, do a body good.
Still, milk consumption in the U.S. has been on the decline for some time, and Americans rank about 15th in the world when it comes to milk consumption (we drink an average of around 20 gallons per person annually, whereas a country like Finland consumes at least twice that amount). Whether the adoption of milk as a sort of boutique ingredient does anything to raise its profile remains to be seen.
Does milk deserve another chance? And if so, should its appeal trickle down from the high-end of the culinary spectrum to drench us all in its milky splendor?