The markets of Paris are an experience, not simply a chore to be checked off the list. Even with the arrival of have-all grocery stores, there are markets abound all over Paris that many use for their main source of fresh produce and food stuffs year round. At these markets, you can meet the farmers that grew your food and feel good about supporting local French small-scale producers.
There are also plenty of items for purchase at these markets that are near impossible to buy at the grocery stores. One of these, due to its short shelf life, are lait cru products, or raw milk products.
Raw milk is very popular in France, and with good reason. There are numerous nutrients in milk that are lost the more you heat and cook it. Obviously, there are many concerns about raw milk too. A friend from New York tells me that it is absolutely illegal to sell raw milk in the USA. She also says that raw milk cheese is so hard to find, that there’s a sort of black market for the stuff. I think similar laws exist in Canada.
Europe, however, bans nearly all growth hormones and antibiotics use on their farms, and the animals are kept in small-scale, humane facilities. These aren’t those paddocks you see crammed with cows ready for the next fast food joint. I’ve seen these cows, out and about on vast fields enjoying grassy hills and plenty of space. The French government also regulates their milk and cheese products heavily. As such, no one gets sick from raw dairy in France. And if it was so “dangerous”, with all the decades France and the rest of Europe has been selling raw dairy products, we would have heard of some sort of epidemic by now.
As I mentioned, raw milk is very nutritious and extremely healthy. The same friend from New York is actually lactose intolerant, but only to pasteurized milk. The healthy bacteria in raw, unpasteurized milk helps her digest dairy products. Thus, she can eat all the raw milk cheese he wants, but two slices of pasteurized cheese and she reacts immediately.
I’ve decided to give this raw milk love a try (when in Rome…) and I must say, the difference is quite obvious. The milk has more taste, as does the cheese too. I wish I could properly explain the taste of raw milk. The best I can do to describe it is by saying that it tastes a little like the country meadows smell – a little grassy, with a hint of alfalfa, and a bit of a nutty aftertaste. The milk is also cream coloured, not stark white, which does make sense after all. The milk cooks nicer in omelettes, tastes better on cereal and the cheese – oh my goodness the cheese! – it has such wonderful tones and flavours that are lost when you process the milk too much.
Cheeses made from regular milk (Saint-Paulin, left) and lait cru (Saint Marcellin, and Bleu d’Auvergne).
It sounds silly, but it really is this simple: you put goodness into a cow and you get goodness back. You only have to filter milk when you’ve cut some corners or (stupidly so) milked a sick cow. For some reason, most people haven’t figured this out yet.
Needless to say, I am hooked on raw milk. Going on a whole, organic French diet with no genetically-modified vegetables, all hormone-free meat, wild caught fish (thank you Norway!) and enjoying raw dairy has made a huge difference in my energy levels and overall health lately. I notice I’ve been sleeping better (I tend to sleep lightly and wake several times during the night), I’ve been getting less headaches and zero migraines, my stress levels are down, and I feel more alert and more energized. Is it the food I’m eating, or is it my imagination? I don’t know, but I will keep on eating and drinking this raw dairy!