Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley
I have to have milk with breakfast unless I am getting breakfast at work. But at home, a glass milk, cold milk, and then coffee. I need that nice cool glass of milk.
But I didn’t know much about milk until I read this book.
Kurlansky’s book is a tour of milk in history, but also a tour of yogurt, cheese, and ice cream.
And it has recipes!
Kurlansky starts with ancient history, exploring when milking first developed as well as pointing out that being lactose intolerant is actually the biological norm and those of us who aren’t are freaks. He also notes the belief that where the milk came from was important – in short, there was a reason why Zeus couldn’t keep it in his tunic. There are interesting discussions about whether milk was a meat and why butter stinker is an insult.
I also learned that aurochsen is the correct plural for more than one auroch.
The book doesn’t just focus on Europe and America. In fact, Asia (and not just India) gets much attention. Perhaps the Southern hemisphere doesn’t get as much attention, though Australia gets covered.
What is most interesting is how Kurlansky shows how certain debates keep recurring, for instance breast-feeding, which he links to the idea of men trying to control women’s bodies. This makes sense when you think about it, not only in terms of child rearing but also in terms of what a woman can do. The bit about the sexy milkmaid also makes sense too, come to think of it.
There are few weak points in the book. The one that sticks out the most are the cow illustrations. Now, look, the illustrations are far, far better than what I could do, but in general even though the drawings are of different breeds of cows, the illustrations are pretty interchangeable. Still, far better than what I could do.
The other weak part is the almost lack of science. But this seems to be because different studies contradict each other. Yet, one did want a little more scientific fact, if possible, about the contradicting claims. To be fair, Kurlansky is brutally honest about how a dairy farm works.
These flaws aside, the book is charming. You can learn all sorts of facts about ice cream, milk, and ice cream.
Did I say ice cream twice?
For instance, the inventor of the hand cranked ice cream maker (Nancy Johnson) and the where the soda fountain was invented, and the fact that Philadelphia is “a city that liked to brand its food”. The focus on ice cream is more on the idea and popularity, with more detail given to smaller businesses than bigger ones such Breyers.
I haven’t tried any of the recipes, though many of them do look quite good and yummy.
Sometimes the creator is as interesting to me as the creation. So it is with Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey. This collection was originally self-published in 2014 by a then 22 year old Rupi Kaur, a Canadian poet, writer, illustrator and performer of Punjabi descent. At 22, I was lucky to find my way home on the bus by myself…Rupi Kaur was writing and self-publishing a collection of poems that bare her soul. Wow!
I’m finding it difficult to express how I feel when I read her poetry because it’s much more than just the words on the page - it’s the whole experience. She writes entirely in lower case and uses no punctuation other than a period. I read online that it’s a shout out to her Punjabi heritage. Here’s an explanation from her website FAQ:
“although i can read and understand my mother tongue (punjabi) i do not have the skillset to write poetry in it. to write punjabi means to use gurmukhi script. and within this script there are no uppercase or lowercase letters. all letters are treated the same. i enjoy how simple that is. how symmetrical and how absolutely straightforward. i also feel there is a level of equality this visuality brings to the work. a visual representation of what i want to see more of within the world: equableness.”
The lowercase writing, the illustrations that are woven throughout the poems and prose in the book, combine to make the experience feel intimate and meaningful. Even the book itself - a flat, black matt cover that is soft to the touch with simple hand-drawn bees the only adornment aside from the title and author - add to the experience.
The summary on the back perfectly describes the book:
this is the journey of
surviving through poetry
this is the blood sweat tears
of twenty-one years
this is my heart
in your hands
I don’t read a lot of poetry collections. I read individual poems but rarely read a collection of poetry from cover to cover by the same author. As the description outlines, Milk and Honey is divided up into four sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking and the healing. I liked “the loving” the best and if I’m honest with myself, I think it’s because it was uplifting and easier to read than the other sections.
be love at
first sight when
we meet it’ll be love
at first remembrance cause
i’ve seen you in my mother’s eyes
when she tells me to marry the type
of man i’d want to raise my son to be like
The hardest reading for me was “the hurting” but it is the one that sticks with me the most. Throughout the collection, Kaur explores violence, rape, love, healing and femininity.
if i knew what
safety looked like
i would have spent
less time falling into
arms that were not
Rupi Kaur began sharing her writing on Tumblr and Instagram and is sometimes criticized by readers who feel that her poems aren’t original or sound a lot like other “instapoets” on the internets. I can only express my opinion and while some of the poems didn’t move me one way or the other, they were in the minority and it certainly wasn’t because I found them unoriginal. Most made me flinch, smile, nod vigorously, look away (and then look back) and in a few cases, laugh.
If, like me, poetry is not your first pick in reading, I encourage you to pick up this collection. It’s accessible, honest and authentic.
So this was as good as people said it was.
I always have a hard time reviewing poetry and putting what I think about them into words, but what I can say is that I really liked the drawings. I liked how the sketches supplemented the poems. They took the poems to another level because they seemed so candid, honest, and effortless.