The milk of humankindness

The GFC (Gluten-Free Crisis) is not over! Every restaurant, cafe and school canteen feels compelled to offer gluten-free food choices. About 30% of Australians claim to be gluten intolerant, though the medically verifiable proportion is closer to 5%.

Now also we’re beset by propaganda about the evils of sugar. Which sugar exactly? Sucrose? Glucose (an essential nutrient)? Fructose? What a beat up! What they’re really trying to say, but it wouldn’t have the gimmick value or generate the spin-off from book and television revenue, is that people are fat because they eat too much processed food.

Sugar is good. In moderation. Eat fruit, have a little in your coffee. Real cake with butter and sugar (and flour) is OK. In moderation. But for god’s sake avoid soft drink, store-bought fruit juice and sports drinks, all packed with sugar!

That’s all by the way, a preamble to illustrate that many (most?) dietary choices are dictated by fashion, fad, advertising, pseudo-science and alternative medicine quackery. Affluent humans seize upon some dietary bogeyman to blame for their being overweight, flatulent and on the way to diabetes and heart disease, rather than address the true causes, gluttony, laziness and boredom.

Thanks to my Chinese ancestry, I am lactose intolerant, a bona fide medical condition, as is about 30% of the Australian population. About 90% of Chinese are lactose intolerant and 40-50% of arabs. Sufferers become more intolerant of lactose as they get older. The main symptoms are usually intense abdominal cramps and diarrhoea. Not pleasant at a dinner party. This is a significant social and medical issue, but it’s ignored. Someone needs to write a book about it and make it sexy. There’s money to be made here! 

Milk is good, right? Babies love it and need it. Breast is best! Millions of Hindus can’t be wrong. Cows are sacred for a reason. Where would we be without butter, cream, cheese, yoghurt and ice-cream? OK, it’s a matter of taste, but milk, and dairy foods are natural , nutritious, versatile, delicious and arguably essential (think of rickets and osteoporosis). Mankind has evolved as a milk drinker. Unfortunately some of us, because of our genetic make-up, don’t tolerate lactose very well, but should we then be shunned and excluded from polite society?

Every coffee outlet offers skim milk, soy milk and almond milk, to cater for the dietary quirks of coffee drinkers. Lactose free cow’s milk is readily available, cheap and indistinguishable from whole milk in taste and frothability, yet I’ve never been offered it  as an alternative at any coffee bar. Non-lactose-intolerant latte-sippers wouldn’t ever know the difference if their brew were made with lactose free milk.  

Soy and almond milk are NOT valid alternatives. They’re for vegans, vegetarians and those who think burning the Amazon to grow soy is better for the planet than milking cows. For a coffee shop not to offer lactose-free cow’s milk is discrimination against the gastrointestinally disabled!

I’m as addicted as the next guy to caffeine, and I finally resorted to supplying my own lactose-free milk to my favourite coffee shop, so that I could enjoy a nice flat white every morning. The manager, however, took me aside a few days ago to say they couldn’t keep it in their fridge, for obscure, in fact ridiculous reasons. I now have my coffee elsewhere. I take lactase enzyme tablets so that I don’t get diarrhoea. It’s enough to give you the shits!


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