Several days ago I bought some milk and not until I had paid for it did I inspect it (the packaging, anyway) carefully. My attention was alerted by the increased price.

It was not my usual milk. This stuff was proclaimed “lactose free” and it made me wonder how many people still know what milk really is. It seems to have little relationship to the source product.

I can remember my father milking cows by hand, urging and controlling the flow with the patient consent of the animal, the drone of milk flowing into milk with the steady rhythm of breathing. Sometimes he would direct a stream at my face; I still remember the warm, comforting taste of cow’s milk.

What have they done to my milk, ma? Ever since Louis Pasteur, people have been tinkering with it. First they sterilized (pasteurized) it, then legislated that you couldn’t buy or sell it unless it was processed. Then they homogenized it so you couldn’t collect the fat from it and make concentrates like cheese. Then they took most of the fat out beforehand and persuaded people that semi-fat or fat-free was better for them.

Now they have taken out the only other nutrient. Lactose is the sugar found in milk, like fructose in fruit and sucrose in plant material. Without any fat or any sugar, what is milk? All that is left are a few minerals, mostly chalk (calcium). And then they add vitamins so the chalk can be used by the body.

I pity those people who cannot tolerate lactose. That condition is the result of our own customs and habits. When we feed infants formulae rather than their own mothers’ milk we produce children who no longer have natural dietary tolerances, who develop allergies and other unnatural reactions to their foods and their environment.

I am thankful that I was fed at my mother’s breast, that I was weaned to pureed foods and then to solids. I still like the taste of “raw” milk, of the real stuff, but it’s almost impossible to find.

So, what have they done to my milk?