Dairy Queen

Yesterday I heard one of the Cape’s more irksome radio hosts lamenting a new advertisement trying to get people to drink more milk. He wasn’t lambasting the idea of consuming more dairy, but found the ad untasteful. I haven’t seen the thing (not even Google could help me there), but apparently it satirised the crime situation in South Africa (give a burglar/killer a glass of milk to calm him down or some such?), which as most people will agree is no laughing matter.

In the course of my research, I did come across this blog post which charts some of the milk campaigns around the world, mostly famously the American Got Milk? one, but also another apparently South African one with this picture:


Here’s how the ad is described: “Let’s see, a guy gets stuck in bear trap; guy tries to free himself by sawing off foot; guy fails to saw off foot due to incredibly strong, milk-fortified bones; guy dies and rots.”

Well that might just take the cake for the most inappropriate ad I’ve ever seen – it definitely doesn’t inspire me to drink milk.

So, as I was whipping myself up at cappuccino this morning, I thought it would be selfish not to share some of the more interesting ways to consume milk, if you’re not the type who generally sports a milk moustache. I’m not a big milk au naturel drinker, but I do manage to consume a lot of the stuff in my coffee. I like milky coffee, and if there’s one thing I have grown to really appreciate about microwaves it’s their essential function as milk warmers. It’s not really that I mind cold-ish coffee, but heated milk actually tastes better.

I also love milk foam. Or froth, as some purists might call it. But I don’t like what I consider to be froth – there’s nothing worse than a cappuccino with this bobble-head of “foam” sitting on top of the cup trying to look like a muffin. That airy stuff lends nothing good to a coffee. Good foam is thick, like very softly whipped cream. And it must lie in a decent layer on top of the coffee – a situation well-captured by the name “flat white”.

Unfortunately not many places get that right. Some of the best restaurants in this town make the crappiest cappuccinos, lattes, and “flat whites” because they don’t get the milk right (and plenty don’t get the coffee part right either – and let’s not get me started on the biscotti).

The cappuccino I make at home is very different from the good ones at coffee shops mainly because the milk I foam is cold. It’s also “2%”, which puts to bed the myth that good foam has to come from hot full-fat milk. I can even throw in another one: it’s long life milk. In fact that processed ultra-pasteurised stuff (we can’t be sure it’s really milk, after all) makes the best foam. Here’s how.

1. Get a small 1-cup plunger. Many “milk frothers” at supermarkets are basically that, though with a fine mesh instead of the three-layered filters for plunging coffee. Note: the three-layered coffee plunging filter is better for frothing milk. There’s probably some obvious science, like creating more friction or suction when you get into rapid plunging mode.

2. Fill to about one third with cold, processed, low-fat milk. Roll up your sleeve and then plunge up and down very fast until your bicep feels like it’s about to go into a spasm (20 seconds? Don’t do this if you have Schwarzenegger arms: something is bound to break).

3. Now leave it alone (plunger in) while you heat milk and pour coffee as for a normal milky coffee. Remember to leave room for foam – I’d say two centimetres is a nice indulgence.

(Here comes the good part).

4. Now slowly lift out the plunger, which will have a nice thick layer of foam clinging to it. If you are not in polite company, you can lick/suck this straight off the plunger. Now pour the foam onto the coffee, stopping just before it starts spilling out of the cup. Now take a spoon, and simply eat the remaining foam in the plunger (there will still be about half left, but you can’t make good foam in tiny amounts, so eating milk is one of the sacrifices of a home-made cappuccino). It is creamy and delicious, something between whipped and ice cream.

5. Once you have this technique down, you can start to go crazy. Like cinnamon in your coffee? Don’t sprinkle it on top. Put it IN WITH THE MILK before you manhandle it: cinnamon foam. Ginger foam. Cocoa foam. Paprika foam. (Oh, this works perfectly well in a large plunger too. Good for many cappuccinos or for one very serious solo milk experience).

(In other, non-dairy news, I’ve just made oxtail for the first time. I followed a 2 hour recipe yesterday, but there was no meat falling off bones. So I added another two hours today, and the meat fell off. Neither the philosophe nor I are really bone-gnawing, marrow-sucking types, so I picked all the meat out and shredded it. That was a bit bothersome, but I now have a bowl of some seriously melting delicious meat. I see it becoming ragout for pasta, with a very zingy gremolata, or ravioli…. I’m also brining a pork belly which this weekend is destined for something along the lines of Gennaro’s stuffed porchetta. If only the damn weather would stop pretending it’s summer.

And finally, some fool has just had his eyeball tattooed.)