Monday, October 6, 2008
A PERSONAL HISTORY STORY~~FLOUR WATER~~
I stood in front of the milk display at the grocery store. We were almost out of milk and would be for sure, after dinner. Would my milk delivery service have milk there by the time we got up in the morning? Have faith, I told myself, they’ve promised. Again and again they’ve promised. I decided not to buy milk.
The next morning, as I stood on the front porch in my bare feet, looking into the empty milk box I thought, you should have put your faith in the grocery store.
Cereal was out for breakfast; we’d have to have eggs and toast. Kraut, who was about twelve years old, decided not to have eggs. He inherited his Grandma Snyder’s stubborn gene, going back through generations all the way to the stubborn Danes—whom, I might add are also great qualities--just in case anyone from Denmark might read this, which I doubt, but you never know.
“I’m not eating eggs. I’ll have cereal,” he said in a tone of voice I had heard before. It was an exasperated, The Brown Dot-threw-his-socks-at-me-from-the-top-bunk-again-last-night-and-I’m-mad-about-it-and-nothing-you-say-will-make-me-change-my-mind-and-eat-eggs, sort of voice.
“There’s no milk,” I said.
“I’ll use powdered milk.”
“It’s not cold,” I said.
I had been “mixing” milk for some time in an effort to save money and also to use up the fifty-pound bag of non-instant powdered milk I had in the basement. As soon as it was used up I would buy a new fifty-pound bag so we would always be prepared in case of an emergency. I made a quart or two of powdered milk at night and then mixed it with “real” milk the next morning—that is if the milkman delivered. We weren’t supposed to be able to tell the difference between “real” milk and “mixed” milk. Or so the “food-storage” experts said. They were wrong but it was hard for me to admit as I wanted to be prepared.
“Just make me some,” he said, “because I’m not eating eggs!”
I mixed him a glass of powdered milk. I took a good look at it before handing it to him. It was separating, just like each batch of this milk I had made since I had opened the new bag of powdered milk. Even when it was mixed with store bought milk there was always a layer of sludge in the bottom. I had to shake the pitcher before pouring the milk. There was also residue left in the each glass. I’ll never buy this brand of powdered milk again, I thought.
Kraut poured the milk on his cereal and ate it, even the sludge.
After the kids left for school I reluctantly called the Milk delivery service and asked them again if they couldn’t get the milk to us before the kids left for school. They couldn’t. They had too many customers, they said. I thought that their milkmen liked to sleep in so I gave the milkmen the opportunity to do so by canceling my service. I then went to the store and bought milk and came home and mixed up a fresh batch of “mixed” milk so it would be cold by dinnertime.
I looked in the bottom of the pitcher. Sludge. Again! This wasn’t right. I was tired of having sludgy milk.
I opened the Rubbermaid container that I kept the powdered milk in and smelled it. It didn’t smell like anything. I rubbed a bit between my fingers. It’s didn’t squeak like the non-instant powdered milk did; it was silky smooth. Then I tasted it. It tasted like flour. I looked in the pantry and there, behind the oats, was an identical Rubbermaid container. This one had squeaky white stuff in it that tasted like powdered milk. I had been mixing our milk with flour. For weeks I’d been feeding the family milky-flour-water.
As soon as Kraut got home from school I ruffled his hair and apologized. I was grateful that besides inheriting Grandma Snyder’s stubbornness he also inherited her spirit of forgiveness. He hung his head and grinned and then hugged me back when I hugged him. Kraut could give awesome hugs and I felt some of my “I’ve-been-feeding-my-family-bad-food guilt” dissipate.
I never finished using that bag of powdered milk in the basement. I didn’t have the heart to mix milk anymore. Several years later we threw it out. If a catastrophe ever occurs we will drink flour water, just like Kraut.