Sunday 16 July 2006

Temple of the Goddess

On Thursday, Whitney and I ventured down to the Ontario College of Art and Design to witness a one-of-a-kind performance by artist and mom-friend Jess Dobkin. The performance was called The Lactation Station Breast Milk Bar, and yes, it was a bar that was serving breast milk. My breast milk, as well as that of four other mothers.

Before you start envisioning the gallons of milk I would have had to donate in order to make this possible, rest assured that each sample was in fact a very small amount squeezed into a tiny plastic cup with an eyedropper. People sat down at the bar and were served two different "flavours" (identified on Jess' "menu" for the event) in order to contrast and compare.

I personally did not taste any milk and neither did Whitney. We were there for the VIP-media preview and the room was packed with photographers and people generally trying really hard to participate in the event. Istra was with us and very interested in the appetizers (silver wide-mouthed goblets filled to the brim with Cheerios) and could not be moved closer to the action. That is my excuse. That, and I wasn't quite sure that I wanted to taste. The only reason I would have wanted to, really, is to compare to my own milk, which I have tasted in small amounts.

From those small tastes, I have come to the belief that my milk tastes like very, very sweet coconut milk--like the kind you get in coconut sticky rice (in other words, very yummy--which explains why Istra loathes cow's milk with the red-hot intensity of a thousand suns). It seems, however, that people tasting at the bar on Thursday had different ideas about what my milk tastes like. I didn't know which label Jess had given me at the time, but I've since been told that my milk was called "Temple of the Goddess", probably named because of my answer to one question Jess asked me in my interview with her. Jess asked me to describe a vessel in which I would like my milk to be served and I replied that I envision something earthenware and curvy, like those ancient goddess statues that sometimes turn up in archeological digs.

See here for someone else's description of my milk. It is a decidedly different opinion than my own. My first reaction, I admit, was to be sort of insulted. My second, perhaps more reasoned reaction was to think that it's kind of cool to have "angry" milk--like milk with a bite! My milk goes down like a shot of wasabi! How cool! This, if true, explains how Istra could chomp happily away on my cottage chili while Aunty Belle's eyes and nose ran and Marjorie followed each mouthful with a piece of bread. On second or third thought I find this sort of hilarious.

Anyway, at the event I was also interviewed three times. The first interview was with CityTV; the interviewer mostly asked me what I thought about the recent Health Canada warning about drinking other people's breast milk. Of course, Jess had all the milk screened, culture tested and pasteurized, so it was a bit of a non-issue and I told the interviewer that. The CBC radio interview I felt was also sort of lame. The best one was the Toronto Star interview, part of which can be read in this article, which also has a nice picture of people sipping at the bar.

Why did I get involved in this, you might be asking? Firstly, because Jess asked. Secondly, because I do have some lactivist tendancies and I saw this as a way to challenge the assumptions that some people seem to make concerning breast milk vs. the various milks that adult humans drink. Why do adult humans drink cow's or any other animal's milk when no other mammal does this beyond its developmental stage? Why do some people think that breast feeding is indecent or that breast milk is unsanitary and yet pour the breast milk of another animal all over their breakfast cereal? We are so far removed from our food sources that it is difficult to recognize the milk we buy at the supermarket as the bodily fluids of another animal.

Oh, and lastly, because Istra and I got to be on TV. Whee!

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