It’s all very well for me to really “dig” fermented food caught up as I am in the good news of pre-digestion, nutritional optimisation, detoxification and consumption of friendly bacteria but I have to accept that the children in the house have an all together different view on the matter. L., who is eleven and nu. 3 in the pecking order of 4 calls me an “old hag” for offering her fermented dairy drinks. It is easy to understand why.
Unless you’re used to drinking fermented dairy products every morning, as was the case in the past, then kefir, yoghurt or buttermilk may well, indeed, seem like the stuff of nightmares. To be fair, I too would have probably ran a mile to avoid drinking soured milk when I was a child/teen-ager and it was only when reading Nourishing Traditions a few years ago, when in my thirties, that I began to buy buttermilk. The first few slugs were, well, challenging. I was doing it on the basis of “this stuff is so good for me I will learn to like it,” rather than out of choice. And, hand on heart – I did learn to like it and still do. Yet, when has a kid or teen-ager ever learned to like something because “It’s good for you?”
Regardless, every morning a bottle of home-made buttermilk is dutifully placed on the breakfast table in the hope that one day one of them will experiment and give it a go. Buttermilk, rather than kefir is what their ancestors would have drunk. So, just in case some echo of a dormant genetic taste might (just) be re-awakened I place the bottle on the table. But alas, to no avail. Every morning the bottle of soured milk sits scorned, neglected, unloved, unopened and ultimately abandoned amongst the other breakfast paraphernalia as the children head off to school. On a recent trip to Germany my mother noted, “We used to drink buttermilk all the time. Do you remember that “Tante Emmi Laden” (aka small corner shop run by an old lady) on the way home from school?” Mum asked my Aunt who was sitting next to her. “We all used to buy buttermilk from her for a few pennies. It was so refreshing in the summer. We quite enjoyed it.”
It is hard for me to visualise a bunch of school-kids leaving school and buying – yes voluntarily with no coercion involved – buying buttermilk. And enjoying it. Times certainly have changed. The following week-end, G. and I went to the cinema. Before the film started we were treated to five adverts, one after the other, of sugary soft drinks starting with Lipton’s Ice Tea, Fanta, Coca-Cola Zero, Nestea Ice Tea and a fruit juice the name of which now escapes me. The clips were colourful, fun, sexy, cool, funky. How one could brand buttermilk as either fun, sexy, cool, funky or a great means to get laid is quite beyond my imagination but perhaps if one were to throw millions at the advertising agents it would be possible? More to the point, trying to imagine anyone actually spending millions on branding and advertising buttermilk is about as hard for me to imagine as it is school children buying buttermilk on the way home from school in 2014.
No wonder the next generation, beginning with the four at home, have Zero interest in buttermilk and every interest in Coca-Cola Zero. As an alternative strategy there is always bribery, which works but only when under contract. Outside of contract it fails. The bribe went as follows: “If you guys drink a glass of buttermilk for seven days you will each receive EUR 10.” Hah – beat that Mr Coca Cola! The kids were hooked. They stuck to the bargain and everyday drank one glass of buttermilk – even the two youngest. Result! Now that the seven days are over the buttermilk sits scorned, neglected and unloved once again on the table.
Occasionally K.M, child nu.2 at the age of 14 will sip on a cup to please me but the real joy and delight in drinking is absent. J. the eldest, however, will occasionally drink a glass without prompting but only occasionally. If the industry that peddles soft-drinks spends millions on advertising then I guess on the home-front that EUR 40 was well spent if at some point in their life the next generation will remember that, all things considered, buttermilk didn’t taste too bad. They might even learn to enjoy it like school kids in Germany once did.