A Little Travel Memory … Please Sir, I Want Some More

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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.

A Shot of Milk in Luang Prabang, Laos
A Shot of Milk in Luang Prabang, Laos

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?

26 thoughts on “A Little Travel Memory … Please Sir, I Want Some More”

    • Well, “quench” may be an overstatement :) More like contented myself with an oh-so-brief and fleeting flavor!

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  1. Oh, that is too funny! It reminds me of an old Western I used to watch, where the hero was so squeaky clean that whenever he went into a saloon, instead of ordering a whiskey, he’d order a glass of milk. Can’t remember which Western that was, but now I will always associate you with it. :-)

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    • Hah! Okay, I’ll take it; and pretty fitting too since I’ve actually ordered milk at restaurants in the US, much to the ridicule of my friends…but at a bar might be going a bit too far ;-)

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  2. That’s hilarious! I lived off of milk probably until the age of 12 so I can relate. I can’t believe they gave you a little shot glass though! In Africa, I always miss fresh milk since they sell the long life milk.

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    • Oh I will lament with you on the long-life milk…I *totally* get why they use it, but there is just nothing quite like fresh milk :)

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  3. My husband drank milk like that growing up. My mom was a single mom with 3 kids on a teacher’s salary so it was milk in cereal only and I never got the desire to drink milk. I can say that when we were in Japan I was going through a very serious cheese withdrawal.

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  4. Haha, this made me laugh. I’ve been in SE Asia for 6 months and one thing I miss the most is milk. I crave it so badly! No one else seems to understand this! I don’t think a thimble of milk would quite satisfy my cravings though!

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    • Glad to have another milk lover out there who understands! SEA really just doesn’t offer it. But, if you’re okay with substitutions they have a lot of soy milk (and the soy with black sesame is delightful to the taste-buds). :)

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  5. Ha! Love it! I would have laughed too and the ‘glass full of milk’!!! he he he! although Im not from the US, my craving from home would be a big meat pie and tomato sauce from my local bakery/pie shop! Yum!

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    • I’d love to say I’m with you on that craving…but wow, that is not even remotely a US food combination! :) But hopefully you can find something close-enough on your travels to appease the craving!

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  6. I got a cold sore on my mouth while I was in SE Asia and the fastest way to clear up a cold sore is to drink a big glass of milk for a few days running. I couldn’t find milk anywhere! I ended up going to the pharmacy and asking them for medication instead, but felt so silly. I actually really like Indian milk, too, because it usually isn’t pasteurized that much so tastes much richer than the milk in the United States. My mom told me that when she was a kid in Calcutta, a man used to come to her house with a cow and milk the cow directly in front of their family and give them the milk! That’s fresh, huh?

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    • I had no idea milk was good for cold sores, that’s a handy fact. Agreed on the Indian milk…the dairy there just blew me away and I started ever single day with some sort of Indian dairy…nothing quite as fresh as your mom’s childhood milk though….now that is straight from the source :)

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  7. Not to mention, Indian curd! My favorite is the one I got occasionally from buffalo milk. A little . . . ? . . . gamey? . . . but a good stout way to start a Varanasi day :)

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      • You’re right, Shannon, gotta work on my table-side manner . . . as a spokesman for the Varanasi Buffalo Milk Advisory Board, my pitch lacks polish :)

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          • Namaste, Madam . . . I AM the VBMAB . . . ;) I am sincerely thanking you for your advisement . . . :) Have a Good China Day!

  8. On one of my trips to India I remember being in an elevator with an Indian man. Just me and him. During the course of the several floors we traveled together I remember him sniffing, something more than simply breathing through his nose. I asked him about it. He told me that all Westerners smell like cheese . . . dairy . . . I guess we are (or at least smell like) what we eat. Travel on Shannon. Hope you had a good trip to China

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