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Going Cold Cow

Would you like to see a picture of my old cow Rose? She has passed now into that great clover patch in the sky, but she was treasured. This is her, isn’t she beautiful?


We got Rose, who was a retired dairy cow, a jersey, as you can see, because our son Jon had a whole lot of food intolerances and it had been suggested to me that I should try him on raw milk. Well, that is easier said than done, you cannot buy raw milk, but, if you have the space and the patience to learn cow wrangling, you can buy yourself a dairy cow. And so Rose came to live with us. I learned very quickly that being a lifelong horsewoman means squat when it comes to cows, they really don’t care if you are not afraid of them and they are far, far less likely to have that wish to please that most horses have. And so, Rose, tongue like a great, green, slimy sandpaper - yoga mistress extraordinaire, I have never before seen an animal that can fold itself in half, do an at speed 180 degree turn and hare off the other way, believe me, rodeo ponies had nothing on Rose!

So she gave me a crash course in cow handling, and in repayment I taught her about partnership and kindness and living in a family instead of being a nameless numbered udder in a big dairy. Rose gave us calves and milk for five years before she shuffled off this mortal coil, and I am so glad to have met her, and would never, ever have another one!

So why am I telling you all this? Well, as you may know, if you are a frequent reader of this blog, I have returned to school to do a nutrition degree and today I was learning about lactose intolerance and I thought I would share it with you.

Firstly, I was absolutely shocked to learn that lactose intolerance is not considered a food allergy, but rather an enzymatic condition, the lack in a person of the enzyme lactase, that our body uses to break milk sugar, lactose, down into simpler sugars that it can utilise.

Most children are born with lactase, and our own human milk has almost twice the lactose that cows milk has! But as we age, most of us stop producing lactase, and over 60% of adults around the world are lactose intolerant! How is that so? And if true, who is buying all that cow’s milk at the supermarket?

So the undigested lactose travels through our digestive tract undigested, attracting water to itself and causing bloating, cramping, nausea and diarrhoea. As it gets further along it begins to get fermented by bacteria, producing lactic acid, which produces gas (farts). Lovely. So again, I ask, with this great list of yukky side effects, who is buying all that milk from the supermarket?

For myself, I have been cold cow (dairy free) for about five years. In fact, there is nothing that will turn you off dairy, in my opinion, faster, than milking a cow, I never realised that milk, cheese, cream and butter smell like cows until I got to spend an hour twice a day with my nose pressed up against Rose’s flank. It wasn’t that she smelled objectionable, she had impeccable personal hygiene for a farm animal, but she certainly didn’t smell like something I wanted to pour into a glass and drink.

It wasn’t this though that made me go cold cow (tempting though it was), dairy aggravates my asthma and my arthritis, milk was easy to give up, cheese less so for me, but I have acceptance now and am rarely tempted.

Next month is Jon’s birthday, every year he asks for lasagne and a triple chocolate fudge cake, so you will get to see what used to be my signature dish, back when I worked in the world of a la carte. Now that is a temptation too hard to bear, and almost worth the ‘enzymatic condition’ that will plague me for at least three days afterwards.

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