As is the norm in North America and Europe, I drink milk. In fact, my dad is the poster parent for the National Dairy Council because I drank at least two glasses a day well into my twenties.
Then I went to Southeast Asia.
And stopped drinking milk. Outside of Western countries, dairy consumption often drops down to almost nil – anything that needs milk will have either powdered milk mixed just minutes before served to you or soy milk as a normal substitute. For the first few months in Southeast Asia I suffered acute milk cravings.
So when I saw a menu in Luang Prabang, Laos with the phrase “glass of milk” on the menu I did a happy dance in my head.
And then they served me a thimble full of milk. Okay, fine, it was a shot glass.
A shot glass of ice cold deliciousness. While I was sad to have so little, my traveling companion Laura and I embraced the humor of the situation and this newly discovered cultural quirk while I downed my thimble of milk and we called it a day.
Since then, I’ve learned some of the history and reasoning behind the utter lack of milk and dairy. It baffled me at first to see cows roaming the hillsides and yet no milk and cheese culture. Lactose intolerance, though, is rampant in Asia. Consider this, Europeans ,on the whole, show as little as 5 percent of lactose intolerance while that number ratchets up to 90 percent in some Asian regions.
My dairy induced longing on my round the world ended when I set foot on the Indian sub-continent and fell in love with curd. There, like the US, a mere thimble full of milk is scarcely enough.
Any secret cravings when you’re outside the US?