Milk in – soy out

WE are drinking milk again.

It’s been eight years. Eight years spent on soy milk, but now it’s over.

It started when our daughters saw The Light.

“Milk’s bad for you,” they chanted. “Fat, cholesterol, exploitation of cows.”

And they poured it down the sink. I remember it was a Sunday afternoon. They’d been to an environmental group hug the previous day and had spent Sunday morning sleeping it off.

All that soy milk, I guess.

An environmental group hug is like tree-hugging, but with people. Your true environmentalist doesn’t shake hands or give people high fives. He (and she) hugs you. This is to show he embraces everyone as his friend, which is, of course, ridiculous.

I hug people. I hug my wife. I hug my daughters (not so enthusiastically since the soy milk business, but that’s all over now). I even hug my best mate. Luckily he lives in England, so it doesn’t happen often.

It means they’re special. What would it say to them if I hugged everyone?

And anyway, there is scale for hugs, just as there’s a scale for handshakes – doubled-handed; firm and purposeful, wriggling out as soon as possible, limp and cold.

With hugs they range from intimate ones, in which you exchange knowledge of body parts, to sterile ones, reserved for the witch at work who dobbed you into the boss, but who has been given the job of giving you your birthday present. These hugs involve the tips of the fingers and a lot of air space. Possibly a headbutt, if you’re lucky.

But it’s not enough to hug everyone. You have to drink soy milk, too. I got used to it. They say you can get used to anything. But it’s not till you try getting used to soy milk that you discover how many things have cow’s milk in them: apart from tea, coffee and hot chocolate, it’s in bread, cake and biscuits, on cornflakes, in sauces, pancakes and porridge.

Despite the eight-year absence it was no surprise to find it back in the house. I’ve watched a huge range of Healthy Products come and go: paw paw cream, primrose oil, tahani. Soy milk was bound to come under scrutiny sooner or later.

“It’s processed,” said my wife. “Processed foods are bad for you. Too much sodium.”

Cow’s milk, I suppose, is not processed. Except by cows.

In that case, I asked, had my family — my daughters in particular —been trying to kill me for the past eight years; but apparently not.

“So can we go back to meat, too?”

Certainly not. Meat is murder.

“But it’s not processed. Those dreadful sausages made out of soy beans must be. And tofu. Even cheese!”

But I was Being Difficult.

So will I live to be 150 now I’m on a healthy cow’s milk diet? Or does eight years on soy milk mean I’ll keel over next week?

“It’s not about quantity of life; it’s about quality of life,” said my wife

“But I’ve been drinking soy milk for the past eight years! It curdles the coffee. It’s delivered out of the carton in lumps. It had ruined my quality of life. I should sue you!”

She said I was being melodramatic, and I was. But I made my point. There’ll always be another fad. I’m glad the soy milk has gone, but probably it’ll be wheat juice next year, unless they decide it’s carcinogenic.

Meanwhile I shan’t give up the environmental movement entirely. Sometimes, among the rebellious ones, there’s a secret barbecue. And the hugs can be good fun.

If you get a really friendly tree.