Family Size Milk in Rome

6 Apr

When you live in a foreign culture, everything becomes relative to your native culture. Take, for example, milk.

Here in Italy, milk is sold in one-liter bottles. And, it only stays good for about 3 days, tops. I suppose this makes it “fresher.” At least that’s what they’ll tell you here, and please don’t ever contradict an Italian on food, especially if you’re from the States. Because if you’re from the States, you are only qualified to talk about obesity and your home gun collection. Anyhoo, apparently the milk here is pasteurized at a lower temperature than US milk, which tends to last at least ten days or longer, and which you can usually even stretch a couple days past the printed expiration date. (This fact, needless to say, horrifies Italians almost as much as Cheez Whiz.)

Here in Italy, you can choose between the 1-liter bottles of milk in the fridge, or the “UHT” milk which is in 1-liter boxes on the shelves and tends to cost a bit less. This is milk pasteurized at a super high temp so that it doesn’t need refrigeration until it’s opened.

Why am I boring you with a discussion of milk in Rome? Because I am reminded of my shopping at Costco when I lived back in the States from 2008 to 2011. (Italiani: Costo sarebbe più o meno l’equivalente della Metro qui a Roma, solo che devi moltiplicare ancora per 3 volte le misure delle confezioni.) There, it was perfectly normal for me to buy not one, but two, plastic jugs of ONE-POINT-FIVE-GALLON size milk. Meaning, it was completely normal for me in the States to buy ELEVEN LITERS of milk in one fell swoop. And anyways, the expiration dates were three WEEKS out, rather than three days.

The other day one of my Italian mamma friends came over with her two sons who are about the same age as my kiddos. She couldn’t believe we eat dinner around 6 pm or so. But the real shocker was that we drink milk with dinner. Her look was half bemusement and half OMG-ness.

There’s a devilish side of me that loves making Italians squirm over the fact that we drink milk with meals. COLD milk, no less. (Italians have a weird thing about drinking cold drinks, especially kids drinking cold drinks. I do not know why this is so, but it is. Actually, that’s a lie—I do know. They say it will give them stomach cramps. You know, cold beverage = total seizing up of the intestinal apparatus, all 28 feet of it. Come to think of it, everything eventually makes its way back to the topic of digestion or lack thereof, here in Italy.) So I really milked this one for all it was worth. (Pun absolutely and most totally intended, hence the italics! Oooh, amusing myself here!)

I began my torture thus:

“Yeah, we drink a lot of milk around here. In fact, we drink milk with all our meals. Come to think of it, I drank milk with dinner all the way through high school and beyond.


At that point I didn’t have the heart to deal the final, always fatal blow: Americans drink a tall glass of cold milk with pasta. Tell an Italian that and the reaction is akin to the delightfully sadistic feeling you might have experienced while slowly roasting an ant on the sidewalk with a magnifying glass as a kid.

Anyhoo, reminiscing about my 11-liter milk shopping trips, I can only look upon the “family size” milk here in Rome with the same bemused and OMG expression. Because “family size” in Rome is a whopping ONE-POINT-FIVE liters. Wooo! Hold me back, folks! Make way in the fridge for that wide load! I bought two of those the other day and they were gone in as many days. But God, just look how happy the family on the family-size milk is! Red cheeks and all!


That special offer price of €2,45 is roughly $3.20 for less than a half a gallon of milk, while the US Bureau of Labor Statistics helpfully gives us an average price of a U.S. gallon of milk for each month of every year for the last ten years (!), and for Feb. 2013 we’re at just under $3.50 a gallon.

Now, if only we could get the price of wine in the States to come down to Italian level, we’d have Utopia.

Oh and P.S., if you think I’m the only expat who discusses Italian milk on their blog, well, you’d be wrong. It baffles the best of us.

Oh and P.P.S. another interesting trivial milk fact here. “They say” that the milk sold in the Vatican supermarket is absolutely superior. I had the occasion to taste the Vatican holy milk only once, at breakfast on vacation with some friends, one of whom had the all-hallowed and clearly God-granted privilege of shopping at the mythical Vatican supermarket. And I know I’m about to destroy dreams here, but, it tasted like–well, milk. But the package did have a really cute cow on it.

UPDATE: Ok, silly me, I’m getting old. I did actually post the thing about the Vatican milk. Duh. Here it is. And the picture wasn’t of a cute cow (that must’ve been some other milk I’m thinking of.) Instead, naturally, it’s of the Vatican gardens or something. Best part? It says it’s from Pontifical Villa Farms. YES!


20 Responses to “Family Size Milk in Rome”

  1. April 6, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    i used to love having dinner at a couple of my Jewish friends houses because if they were serving beef the choice of drinks was city water that tasted like swap water or cheap ginger ale bottled by one of their cousins! Tough choice…. I think that I stopped drinking milk in high school and switched to water. Milk made too much phlegm. When we had children they drank 1% milk.

  2. Catherine April 6, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    You’re killing me! We grew up in OZ in exactly the same way. My kids all eat cereal after their pasta and last year on hols my friend told me ‘non l’hai ancora insegnato come mangiare’ about my skinny runt kid. (I was hurt, flabbergasted and had to laugh it off.)

    We are living in a parallel universe.

  3. triciatierney April 6, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    Hilarious, as usual. Too bad there wasn’t a picture of a cow and Pope. That would’ve been a keeper.

  4. Barbara Giacometti April 6, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    When my son was about 2, he came down witha horrible stomach virus. We ended up in Panarama, Italy’s equivalent to walmart, only to find 100 choices of Jello (except vanilla), the only thing he would eat. Plain Cheerios was another issue. 100s of flavored except plain. Why? Why? Because plain Cheerios resembles eukunuba dog good ini Italy . Vanilla jello? Cacao is considered a drug in Italy’s, lol. So u can forget vanilla jello in the supermarket. I don’t remember exactly why. I do remember my mother overnighting me 20$ worth of groceries for 120$via FedEx. Lol my jello required a signiture at customs. No delivery until I appeared at the airport. So I did. I remember the man saying in Italian., hey lady, u really don’t need that jello, I would have hit hit him with the jello, but my child was waiting.

  5. Barbara Giacometti April 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    And yes, I called Gastroni’s. lol. Italy’s one stop shop for Americans and their maxwell house! Lol They told me about the Cheerios. Lol

  6. Nerys April 6, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    Oh, and do we want to talk about how disgusting UHT milk tastes here? Blergh.

  7. Kristen April 6, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

    Last year when I went to Italy I packed my favorite tea as I’m not a coffee drinker. OMG! what does a tea drinker do in Italy! And I put milk in my tea! So my milk experience in Italy was a complete failure. Nothing tasted right and I didn’t have a decent cup of tea until I hit the airport in London. And I never found the pastorizzato microfiltrato.

    My “expiration” problem was with sfuso. I didn’t realize this did not last as long. I waited too long so it tasted terrible as well. Maybe next time I’ll sort out my Italian beverage problem. 🙂

  8. Beth April 6, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Shelley, I sympathize with you…but having been raised in America’s Dairyland, I also understand the propaganda of the dairy industry, that milk is nature’s perfect food. My 93-year-old mother still drinks milk with most meals. On the other hand the digestion-obsessed Italians may have a biological reason for avoiding milk with meals. Many southern Europeans are in fact lactose intolerant. I can understand as I have the same problem myself.
    BTW, Barbara…Gastroni is the the perfect name for Castroni. Nothing there is fresh and talk about expensive….

  9. Un'americana a Roma April 6, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Ha! That’s classic, Gastroni. Well, I love me some milk, no one is going to talk me out of it.

  10. Un'americana a Roma April 6, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    Poor thing! That’s like the Italians who take pasta in their suitcases on vacation. ha. We all have our favorite things from home that just aren’t ever the same abroad. I was chatting with a Scottish expat here the other day who said he never drinks Guinness abroad, but then lo and behold, a pub owner in Trastevere insisted that he try their Guinness, and this expat said it was the best Guinness he’d had in over 20 years!! Mistero!

  11. Un'americana a Roma April 6, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Blergh? That is awesome. Yes, it’s awful. And I admit that in dire circumstances I have even drinken it straight at room temperature. *faccio totalmente schifo lo so*

  12. Un'americana a Roma April 6, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    That is really something!! What a story! Yes I always have certain OTC stuff on hand from the States. Old habits die hard. As far as the plain Cheerios go, I’ll never forget the first time my MIL visited us in the States when my son was about 8 months, and we’d take plain cheerios as a snack in a baggie for him when we’d go out, or put them on his highchair tray with a banana at breakfast, and she wrinkled her nose in disgust, literally, and was like, “That looks like cat food.”

  13. Un'americana a Roma April 6, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    I swear to God that I took a picture of the milk carton. It might be somewhere in my Flickr pool from years ago, because even back then my intention was to blog about it, but I don’t think I ever did.

  14. Un'americana a Roma April 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Yeah, it’s true. I’ve totally come to accept the fact that whenever my kids get sick, it’s always due to some discrepancy on my part in observing a cultural norm. Whenever they get a cough or cold, it’s because I let them run around the house with no socks or “non li copri abbastanza.” Such is life, it’s ok. I try to take it all with a grain of salt. But when it gets borderline insulting or blaming/fault-finding, like the “You haven’t taught them to eat properly yet” that you mention, that’s harder to look the other way about. As much as I make light of Italy and Italian culture, I always try to do it with a sense of fun and respect. After all, I chose to live here voluntarily because I like the quality of life. I’d never dream of trying to force Italians to drink milk with dinner or wear a T-shirt in March, or try to convince them that they won’t die if their kids sweat, so why should they force me to give up things that belong to mine and 50% my children’s culture, as if their way is superior? That’s not cool in any culture.

  15. Un'americana a Roma April 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    mmm ginger ale! My friend tipped me off to Bundaberg’s Ginger Beer from Australia… I found it at Castroni.

  16. April 6, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    I worked with a guy from Nigeria. Never had milk after he left his mother’s breasts. He couldn’t drink milk, eat ice cream, eat cheese (including pizza), etc without getting violently ill. Poor guy we had to have liquid lunch when he was with us!

  17. simcek April 8, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    Nice post.

    How’s your gun collection going anyway?

  18. Dani April 8, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    haha. poor lazy italian stomachs

  19. steffan ziegler April 8, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    Bundaberg is a bit sweet. I find it needs a bit of acid, so I add about a tablespoon of lime juice and it straightens it right out. (Four tablespoons of gin helps as well, but save that for after the kids go to bed.)

  20. Un'americana a Roma April 10, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    I like the way you think, my friend…

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: