Buttermilk

 Here’s a subject that doesn’t often occur organically in
conversation-buttermilk. I mean, most people under the age of forty
recognize only buttermilk for its use in baking, or maybe not at all.
Do you know anyone who actually sits down and pours themselves a
tall, cold one of buttermilk? I do.

Buttermilk is really poorly named as there is little butter in it.
Buttermilk is the fluid left after the solids have been churned out
of milk and used in production of butter. Buttermilk has kind of a
tart flavor to it due to the lactic acid which is left after the
lactose in milk has been fermented. This acid is what causes the
protein in milk to curdle and the fat easier to churn into butter.
There are bacteria in buttermilk which seem to help maintain a
healthy stomach, which is where a lot of healthy and unhealthy items
get sorted out.

My dad likes buttermilk, a lot of buttermilk. He has drank it as long
as I can remember and has never had to worry that someone may have
drank all of his buttermilk as most careful people would stop pouring
as soon as their nose gave alarm to what was planned for the lips.

Dad and I recently spoke of the origins of his taste for buttermilk.
Dad was waiting in line at the Newfolden Elevator to dump a truckload
of grain. Anyone who has ever sat in a line of trucks waiting to
cross the scale knows it can last long enough that you can get hungry
or thirty; Dad was both. Stan’s Grocery used to be right next to the
elevator and so Dad went in search of food and drink; he got both. He
bought a carton of buttermilk and found it satisfied his thirst and
his hunger. The cool, clear milk probably was good for his thirst and
the leftover milk solids probably had much to do with satisfying his
hunger. Today, creameries sometimes add flecks of butter to mirror
the old-style buttermilk but Dad would have been drinking the real
stuff. My estimate is that this would have been somewhere in the
early sixties or so.
I hadn’t tried buttermilk since I was a child and so bought a pint.
Lisa uses buttermilk in cooking and did so with a portion of the pint
I purchased. I decided to taste what was left. It was an odd
combination of creamy, sour and cheese overtones-all tastes which did
not belong in the same room yet were not too bad. I was mildly
repulsed and considered the carton date but found it current. I
soldiered on and could actually consider a continued relationship
with the flavor and consistency. These both were not inviting enough
to beckon me for repetition that evening however I do believe I will
try a bit more this week.

I suspect buttermilk was from a time when people used food more
carefully and reverently. Our lives of plenty have caused us to pass
by such food and made us unaware of the good of many of these foods.
A recent trend in food is to sprout or ferment foods to amplify their
inherent nutritional benefits and buttermilk is a food which fits
into this category. My dad always said buttermilk was good for his
stomach plus it is low in calories and apparently tastes darn fine
while it satisfies your thirst as you wait in line to dump grain.

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