Glass of milkMilk. It’s a vital source of calcium and artificially-added vitamin D. It’s a necessary ingredient of all sorts of culinary delights such as butter, cheese, ice cream, and strawberry-cheesecake-flavored yogurt. It’s the most delicious substance that can be squeezed out of an animal. Milk is all these things…yet it also can be a confusing product for many uninformed consumers. This is where I step in as your trustworthy guide to a lactative Paradisio.

In order to acquire some of this heavenly goodness, you first need to weigh your options. There are four possible sources of milk:

  • A local farmer. If you live in the country and know a farmer who owns cows, this isn’t a bad place to begin. Milk straight from the cow (full cream milk) is the best sort of milk you can drink. Unfortunately, if it’s unpasteurized, it may also be the last sort of milk you drink.
  • Your doorstep. This only works if you live in a country where milk is delivered to your doorstep by a handy milkman. Unfortunately, this is not the case here in Lafayette, so I can only imagine what a wonderful custom this would be.
  • A woman. Hey now, that’s just sick. I can’t believe you suggested it.
  • A local supermarket. For most of us, this is the main source of milk. Thus, the rest of this buying guide will focus on how to purchase milk in a supermarket.

Upon entering your local supermarket, your highest priority should be to locate the area of the store where the milk is stocked. It is usually in the back—in fact, it is in the farthest corner of the store from where you entered. This is because the owner of the supermarket knows you came there with the sole intent of buying milk, and he wants to distract you with junk food, brightly-colored fruit, and Ho-Hos placed strategically between you and your prize. Do not be distracted by these other products. You came here to buy milk. (Though you may buy Ho-Hos if you wish.)

Once you arrive in the area of the store labeled dairy, you will find milk packaged within hundreds of plastic jugs and cardboard cartons, nestled snugly on racks behind thick glass doors. Your first instinct will be to leap through the glass and greedily gulp down the milk in every last container. Do not do this! It is very expensive, and usually people stare at you funny. Instead, I recommend taking a deep breath or two; then, look at the brands and types of milk available. Here are a few possibilities you may find in front of you if you are shopping in Lafayette:

  • Great Value (Wal-Mart store brand). This is an adequately-flavored milk, suitable for cooking and pouring on cold cereal. It leaves behind a little aftertaste after drinking.
  • Dean’s. Exactly the same as the Wal-Mart brand.
  • Sealtest. Exactly the same as the Wal-Mart brand.
  • Kroger. Utterly delicious. This milk leaves no aftertaste and is perfect for drinking straight out of the glass.

Next, you must decide how much milkfat you want:

  • Whole milk. Contains 3.25% milkfat. Probably a bit much for most people, but a few hardy (and rotund) souls swear by this variety.
  • 2% milkfat. The best all-around milk, perfect in every situation. Enough milkfat to be tasty but not enough to make you feel like you’re guzzling fat.
  • 1% milkfat. Some fool’s compromise between 2% and skim. Nobody actually buys this unless he or she is trying to please both 2% and skim milk aficionados. Ultimately, it pleases no one.
  • Skim milk. Imagine taking a glass of water and pouring in a nondescript, flavorless white powder. What you get is skim milk. It is “real” milk in the sense that Kenny G is a “real” jazz musician.

Curious cowNow that you’ve decided which variety of milk you would like to purchase, walk up to the glass doors and open them (warning—they may be sliding doors). Find the jug or carton with the latest possible expiration date and remove it from the rack. Bring it to the checkout counter and pay for it (optional). If the cashier asks whether you would like your milk in a bag, respond with an emphatic “No!” Only pansies do this. Real milk lovers carry their milk to the car in their own hands, lovingly cradling it as they look forward to an afternoon spent reading a good book while sipping a tall glass of delicious cow juice.