I Want My Milk! And I want to move back to the South, but what will happen to my freedom?

Okay, I realize that saying "I want my milk" is an odd thing for a nursing mother of three children under five to be saying. Let me rephrase it: I want my raw cow's milk! Now there are some who will say that I shouldn't be drinking milk at all, the non-dairy folks. They have some good reasons for this stance and I respect them. Unfortunately, for their cause anyway, I had way too many bowls of milk-laden cereal growing up to agree with them.

My husband and I have decided to become healthier this year. Okay, really I have decided that we would become healthier. You guys should know that when you marry us, we will make you healthier. I believe that's really why guys who don't ever get married stay bachelors – they don't want some woman telling them what to eat. Fortunately for me, my husband was totally ignorant of this women's ploy.

And so he's stuck. He's had a physical and lost twenty pounds as a result of the doctor's advice. He's heard me complain when he orders a hot dog – see what you bachelors are missing?!? And he's started to drink raw cow's milk. For the uninitiated, that means the milk is not pasteurized or homogenized.

Neither one of us is going to stop drinking milk any time soon. My husband can probably blame his milk drinking habit on cereal as well, but he drinks much more than I do. And he drinks it from a glass, not just with cereal or in tea. And then there are our two older boys, with the third soon to begin drinking cow's milk, following in their daddy's footsteps already.

If there's one thing about breastfeeding moms that you should know, it's that for the most part we really care about what goes into our body. We have to. Breastfeeding moms often study such stuff and we make our long-suffering husbands and children go along with us. And here's the thing – we're often right.

Studying up on things has hardly been easier than with the Internet. I learned a lot when I was busy obtaining three academic degrees, but I didn't learn the important stuff. I didn't learn that raw milk, when produced in a clean dairy, is much healthier than the pasteurized stuff. There are people who would argue with me. And if you're not sure where your milk is coming from, then it might be a good idea to go with the stuff that's been heated so much that all the bad stuff is mostly gone. When I first heard about pasteurization as a child, I thought it had to do with pastures. The problem with pasteurization, named after famed Frenchman Louis Pasteur, is that all the good stuff is gone as well. So-called "raw milk" gives you everything, the good with the bad, or the not-so-bad if the dairy's clean.

The astute reader at this point will wonder how all this is connected to the South, for which I am growing more homesick every day. The other night my four-year-old said, "I'm not from North Carolina, mommy, you are." Okay, I must admit that he's right about that, technically anyway. Never mind that his maternal grandparents are alive and well in North Carolina and his mom was raised there. His father's mother is from Nebraska, nowhere near the South. His paternal grandpa is from Memphis; my children are three-quarters Southern.

And technically, yes, he and his two younger brothers were born and bred, and if you want to be nosy, even conceived in California. And so even though my firstborn seems to love North Carolina barbeque – Eastern North Carolina barbeque if you want to be picky – I must tell you that he is indeed correct: Mommy is from North Carolina, but he is not. Yet.

And then, even more recently, we were looking at a map of the United States and I was showing my four-year-old where the South is and telling him that's where he's from. Okay, so I exaggerated a bit. And like any good four-year-old, he caught me: "No, mom, I'm from your tummy and Cedars-Sinai," referring to the Los Angeles hospital where I gave birth to him. My tummy, and the rest of me, is from North Carolina, but Cedars-Sinai is not.

Much as we love our currently rising property values in Southern California, my husband and I know that the booming real estate market's not going to last forever. Anyway, we miss the barbeque. That I can say for both of us. And even though the barbeque, and the sweet tea and grits that I miss immensely, have little to do with our burgeoning good health, we miss the South.

And what does all that have to do with raw milk? I thought that moving from state to state would have little to do with raw milk, actually. In fact, I believed that raw milk, with its scrumptious cream on the top, would be one comforting thing wherever our abode. I assumed nationwide access to raw milk until I went to Florida this past summer. Shopping at the Wild Oats Market, the Miami equivalent of Whole Foods, I didn't see a bit of raw milk on the milk shelf. Never fear, my husband said, they sometimes put the raw milk in a separate part of the refrigerated section. Sometimes. At least in California. Raw milk can easily be found in California, until it sells out, which is usually the same day it's placed on the shelf.

When I inquired about the raw milk, or lack thereof, in Florida, I was told that it was illegal to sell it in the grocery store, that some, perhaps, could be bought from a dairy, but not from a grocery store. Needless to say, I was puzzled. It wasn't, after all, marijuana, which also shouldn't be illegal, but is. A mom of three has little time to worry about marijuana laws, as she once did, but the cow's milk thing – well, that's something to think about.

Having said that about marijuana, I must admit that maybe the two aren't that dissimilar. Milk and marijuana, after all, other than the super obvious – beginning with the same middle-alphabet letter – are natural products. You can't say that about, say, Paxil. But it's evidently a lot easier to obtain unnatural Paxil in North Carolina than it is to buy natural raw milk.

Ironically, as part of the La Leche League of North Carolina's 2005 Annual Breastfeeding and Parenting Conference at which I was performing recently, I attended a seminar on nutrition. The seminar leader talked about Westin Price and his research into diet and one thing that came up was the importance of drinking raw milk. When I looked in the North Carolina Whole Foods, however, I saw no raw milk. This time, I was afraid to ask.

When I returned to California, I looked it up on the Internet. Sure enough, my fears were confirmed and I learned that North Carolina is a state in which it is illegal to sell raw milk, even from a farm. Silly, isn't it? Should Our Masters tell us what we can and cannot buy in the grocery store?

After all the government-sponsored supposed drug education programs, a mom feels as though she must say she's against illegal drugs, even the natural ones, even if she thinks that the government has no business regulating foliage. But milk? People have been drinking raw cow's milk for hundreds of years. The trouble with regulating what we buy and sell is that once Our Masters begin to control these things, they really forget how to stop. And slowly, but surely, we forget the freedoms that we once held sacred.

I want my raw cow's milk. And I want my North Carolina barbeque. And in a free country, such as the United States supposedly is, I should be able to have both, no matter what state I claim as my own. I am not advocating here a Constitutional Amendment that says each state must allow freedom in milk; the last thing we need is another commandment from Leviathan. I'm just wondering how we've gotten ourselves to the point where we allow the government to decide what we can and cannot place in our body. And what else will we allow Leviathan to do to take away our freedom to choose?

North Carolina barbeque tastes good, and there's no substitute for it that I've found in Southern California. But it's not illegal for any California cook to try and outfox any North Carolina cook. The fact that it hasn't been done pays a real tribute to the power of good pulled pork barbecue and to the people in North Carolina who cook it. Do North Carolina's cows and the people who drink their milk deserve any less? I love the taste of North Carolina barbecue, but right now, the freedom to choose my raw cow's milk tastes even better.

November 14, 2005