Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Great Canadian Milk Myth

Back in America we like to enumerate a whole list of little quirks that Canadians have, quirks that serve as major indicators differentiating between the Average American and the Average Canadian.  One of my favorites is what I like to refer to as the Great Canadian Milk Myth.

American 1:  Canada is really strange.

American 2:  Oh yeah?

American 1:  Yeah.  I heard that up in Canada the milk comes in bags.

American 2:  Bags?  No cartons?  That is just too weird.  That can't be true.

American 1:  I know, its so weird I kind of don't believe it.  I've never seen it, but my brother-in-law's fishing buddies went up to Canada one time, so maybe it is true.

American 2:  Maybe.  But didn't your brother-in-law's fishing buddies catch a huge fish that turned out to be an old tire?

American 1:  Yeah.  Those guys are pretty dumb.  Milk in bags can't be true.

Good thing that I am here, conducting both an internship at a major Canadian Cultural Institution and a sporadic and highly informal anthropological study of the Canadian People.  Just think of me as your own personal ethnologist.  Or secret agent.  Whatever.

This is the dairy section of Loblaws, one of the big Canadian grocery stores here in Ottawa.  The first time I was in the grocery store I bought some Cheerios and then headed to the dairy section, and what did I see?  
Milk in bags.  The myth is true.

Close-up of the milk in bags.  These large bags of milk which, as you can see on the outside of the bag, contain 4 liters, actually contain individual smaller-sized bags of milk.  Don't they look repulsive, just bulging grotesquely and lolling about on the milk-racks?

One of my flatmates is a Canadian from Alberta, one of the provinces in the west of the Canadian prairie.  (See handy map below).  I was going on about the strangeness of the milk in bags and he told me that milk only comes in bags in eastern Canada.

He also told me how one copes with the milk in bags.  Special milk-in-bag pitchers.  You put the bag of milk into the specially-sized and open-topped pitcher, then snip the corner of the bag off.

The flatmate also told me that there was an extra milk-in-bag pitcher that I could use for any future milk-in-bags purchase I would make.  

I was like, "Eeek!  No!  I'm good."  There are somethings in which I am just too American to handle.  And one of those things is milk in a bag.


Anonymous said...

Now I never knew that about milk in bags. Why do they do that and why in eastern Canada? As our personal ethnologist and secret agent, I would like you to find out. Thanks in advance.

Ynn said...

Actually, when you think about it, the original storage vessel for milk is in the "bags" or teats of cows. So, it would seem logical to trade one storage unit where the milk stays clean, fresh, and easily transportable for another with the same characteristics. But, that doesn't mean that I don't think it's weird too.

Michael Sung said...

Brilliant idea! Why spend resources to transport milk cartons or rigid plastic containers when you can use thinner/lighter plastic?!