This series explores aspects of America that may soon be just a memory -- some to be missed, some gladly left behind. From the least impactful to the most, here are 25 bits of vanishing America.
When my dad was a kid, milk didn't come in the normal, civilized way--packed in a waxed cardboard carton from the supermarket. No, his family had had it delivered early in the morning by a white-clad emissary from the local dairy. While my father had never actually seen the milkman, he had taken the man's existence for granted. After all, like those other spectral deliverymen, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, the milkman had always left proof of his existence behind, in the form of glass milk bottles and the occasional carton of sour cream.
I had always regarded my dad's milkman tales with more than a little bit of skepticism. Like putting playing cards on the spokes of one's bicycle tires or walking to school, it seemed to me that the milkman was one of those things that sounds a lot cooler than it actually is. One year, however, we went to stay with some family friends who lived outside London. The Vernoski's had milk delivery, and a couple of mornings a week, frosty milk bottles would find their way to the stoop, ready to drink. One day, eager to give me a taste of the joys of his childhood, my father paid to have an extra bottle dropped off.
The milk was amazing. When we first got it, there was a little stripe of whole cream poised at the neck of the bottle. Although I was ready to suck it down as is, my father was adamant that we had to do this the right way. He shook up the milk and poured me a thick, cold glass. Even after his homestyle homogenizing, the milk still was unevenly mixed, and I could feel the whole cream on my lips, rich, sweet, and slightly oily. It was delicious.
Since then, I've occasionally bought the premium milk from the grocery store, but it really isn't the same; in fact, the closest that I've come to the experience of the English milkman milk has been organic cream-top yogurt, which is a wonderful little indulgence from time to time. On the bright side, the milkman seems to be making something of a comeback in the United States, and Winder Farms has a little website where they note some of the milk companies that do home delivery in various areas. If you're lucky enough to be in a place where you can get milk brought to your door, enjoy some for me!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. The saddest thing about the disappearance of the milkman is the disappearance of milkman jokes.