While checking out at my local yuppie grocery store, I realized that I was buying all the staples of New Age life: edamame, bulk raw seeds, something with tofu, and milk that isn’t milk.
Edamame and pumpkin seeds are delicious, the tofu thing was on sale, and the un-milk was part of an intensive scientific investigation. I am accustomed to drinking skim milk, and when I moved in with my staunchly 2% roommates, I decided to examine all the options since I was buying my own cereal whitener anyway.
I am almost dangerously willing to sample new foods. In my college cafeteria I served as the canary in the mineshaft, informing my friends which offerings were delicious and which might cause them to miss class for a week. That’s how I found out that, when it comes to falafel, texture is everything.
The gently steaming pile of dark tan nuggets did not invite dining so much as a little plastic bag and a trowel. I scooped one onto my plate, where it nestled between the breadcheeks of my emergency backup sandwich. With my tablemates looking on incredulously, I bit into the thing.
It might have tasted good—I couldn’t tell. Any flavor was completely overwhelmed by not only the precise color and shape resemblance to my childhood Basset Hound’s backyard deposits, but also the exact sun-brittle texture of old dog turds in the desert. I had never wondered what it would be like to bite into one of those, and I am not glad to know.
Anyway, the experience still didn’t scare me away from weird food, and the aforementioned yuppie grocery store has a lot of fake milk. I started with vanilla soymilk, which rocks because it’s lightly sweetened for when your chocolate Cheerios aren’t meeting your morning sugar needs.
Then I moved on to vanilla almond milk, which is even sweeter and kind of almond-y. It’s also slightly brown, but if you stick to a chocolate cereal regimen, the color is not too disturbing. This one was so yummy that I started drinking it for dessert, and I bought a second carton the day the first one ran out.
About ten ounces into the half gallon, the bleh threshold hit, and I had to get sweeter cereal to hide the taste.
Next was coconut milk—not the watery stuff inside a coconut, but a shockingly white milk imposter. It felt too thin to be that white, and it tasted more like the chilled spit of someone who had recently been eating coconut cream pie.
During the coconut period, thanks to another sale I picked up a half gallon of dark chocolate almond milk. Even I am not self-destructive enough to put this on cereal, but chocolate definitely goes on the Ice Cream List of foods I always want to be eating.
Apparently, I had conveniently forgotten about the bleh portion of my previous almond milk adventure.
There’s nothing wrong with the actual taste of this beverage, I’m pretty sure. The problem is the scent you notice right before it touches your lips—that whiff of protein that suggests you are not about to taste a refreshing beverage but rather bite into a nicely charred piece of chicken.
It’s the falafel all over again, really, with other senses beating out taste for a lasting impression.
I gave the rest of the carton to my mom. I did warn her beforehand. Also, she has a minimally effective sense of smell and has never even noticed a problem with powdered milk.
Mom says the chickenmilk tastes fine. Personally, I’m thinking of going back to cows.
(P.S. Does your regular, non-yuppie grocery store still have an aisle labeled “New Age Beverage” like mine does? Every time I see this I giggle a little.)