PETA have asked Ben & Jerry to use breast milk for their ice cream. Would you eat it?Breast is best. It's a phrase few nutritionists would disagree with, government agencies endorse it and natural child-rearing types say it all the time. They just don't usually say it about ice cream.
But if PETA get their way in what we'll charitably assume for a moment isn't just an imaginative publicity stunt, one of the leading high-end manufacturers would be serving up tubs of iced-mummy-juice. But would you eat it?
It is, of course, an argument that is being held in lots of different ways at the moment: why should it be considered normal to feed babies with cows milk rather than donated human milk (as talked about in Weekend magazine's interview with Kate Garraway last month)? And isn't it a bit weird drinking something filled with the kind of hormones that make baby cows grow up into big strong cows anyway? And that's before you get into the humane treatment bit that PETA are most worried about.
But that all aside - perhaps spurred on by the Kate Garraway interview (well, probably not, but, you know, maybe?) there seem to have been a lot more breastmilk articles in the last few days.
Sadly, the one that got everyone excited last week - the news that a restauranteur in Switzerland was planning on adding some breast-milk recipes to his menu that he'd developed when his own children were born - has ended sourly. After a few days trying to work out whether it was legal or not, as weirdly no one had thought to mention whether it was a banned foodstuff or not before, some crazy officials have decided that it's not alright after all and nipped it in the bud. Ahem. Apparently they have no way of proving how fresh it is and perhaps something about pasteurisation, and all of that - it's health and safety culture gorn maaaad, I tell you.
But would people have liked it? The chef in question was deeply convinced by his recipes - he said that all you had to do was add a bit of whipping cream to correct the consistency, but otherwise they were completely kosher. Sorry, kosher as in the cockney sense of 'valid' rather than the correct technical sense. (In fact, if someone could clear up whether cooking with breastmilk would be kosher or not, I'd be very interested to hear it. Is it?)
Still, they're sounding doubtful at the moment - a spokesperson for Ben & Jerry's said that although human milk was a marvellous thing for babies they thought they would probably be sticking with moo-cows.
But it's the concept that interests me. There are some incredible possibilities: I haven't been blessed enough to expel small people from my undercarriage as yet, but people of my acquaintance who have assure me that you have to be careful what you eat and drink because the flavour of it carries through into the milk you feed your baby. Or something. Surely this could be utilised in ice cream production? Surely we could just get the ice-cream mothers to eat nothing but strawberries and then be able to call it 'all natural flavour!' (though obviously Rum & Raisin would be a bit of an ethical dilemma if she was also still feeding a little baby as well as going into industrial production).
But also - would people feel comfortable eating it at all? While in many ways it's surely as natural - if not more natural - than drinking any other animal's milk (trying to imagine suckling directly from a cow at this point helps when thinking about it, I find) reactions to the idea of it being used in restaurant food or ice cream were generally not good. Is it because it's a bodily fluid and it belongs to some one else? Because it's not like cooking with snot, is it? It's quite different. Isn't it? Does it feel like cannibalism? Is that why people feel funny about it?
I'm at a disadvantage here, because not only have I never been milked, no one's ever offered me a drink of theirs, either (you know, you pop round for a dinner party, they ask if they can get you anything - wine? Beer? Nipple-runoff?) so not only do I not know how it tastes, I don't know how I would react to the reality of being presented with the choice. Though I have to admit that my gut instinct is 'churny' - meaning possibly I wouldn't be that keen. But I have no idea. Do you?
Have you tried it? Your own, or someone else's? What does it taste like, please? And if this was a perfectly pleasant and not weird experience at all, then if you came across it on a restaurant menu or the ingredients list of your ice cream, would you be fine with that?
By Anna Pickard - Word of Mouth blog