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Every Tuesday at 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m., Tom Harte shares a few thoughts on food and shares recipes. A founder of “My Daddy’s Cheesecake,” a bakery/café in Cape Girardeau, a food columnist for The Southeast Missourian, and a cookbook author, he also blends his passion for food with his passion for classical music in his daily program, The Caffe Concerto.

A Harte Appetite: Milk

flickr user Zeyus Media (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

The ancient Greeks believed that our galaxy was created when the goddess Hera spilled some of her milk as she was nursing the baby Hercules.  Each drop became a star in what we have ever after appropriately called the Milky Way.  Likewise the Egyptians, the Hindus, and the Sumerians assigned milk a central role in their creation stories.

Milk-based creation myths can be found in many cultures around the world and you might regard them as merely entertaining and fanciful stories, as I always have.  But recently I have come to a deeper understanding of why many in the ancient world regarded milk as at the center of the universe.

It happened while I was visiting my new grandson and namesake for whom right now milk really is the center of the universe.  Noting his dependence on milk, the first food of all humans, and all mammals for that matter, I have a further appreciation of the substance which food historian Anne Mendelson, writing in the Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, calls “the first and the most chemically complex food encountered by any mammal in a lifetime of eating.”

But it has not always been this way.  For most of history, at least until about 10,000 or so years ago, human beings were not particularly interested in, or were downright averse to, actually drinking this remarkable liquid.

Sooner or later milk became anointed nature’s most perfect food on the one hand and viewed with suspicion on the other.  Even today it and the production practices associated with it are not without controversy.

But when all is said and done it’s hard to imagine that there’s any better accompaniment to a warm cookie than a glass of milk.  Moreover, without this opaque white liquid there would be no yogurt, butter, cheese, or whipped cream.  Visiting my newborn grandson has made me realize that even a baby seems to know that.


Milk-Braised Pork Tenderloin

Braising meat is a wonderful way to add flavor and increase tenderness, and when milk is the braising liquid it works that much better, adding a slightly caramel flavor and imparting a downright silky texture to the meat.  This recipe, adapted from Food & Wine magazine, was developed by Elena Arzak and Juan Mari Arzak, who operate a famed eponymous restaurant in San Sebastian, Spain.

4 (6 ounce) pieces pork tenderloin, trimmed
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups whole milk
4 garlic cloves, halved
1 sprig sage

Season each piece of pork with salt and pepper and slather with ½ teaspoon mustard.  In a skillet brown pork on all sides in olive oil over moderately high heat.  Remove from skillet, drain off oil, and add milk, garlic, and sage.  Simmer over moderately low heat until garlic is nearly tender, about 20 minutes.  Return pork and accumulated juices to skillet and simmer another 20 minutes or until pork registers 140 degrees, turning every 5 minutes.  Remove and keep warm.  Discard sage sprig.  Puree milk sauce until smooth.  Slice pork 1-inch thick, arrange on plates, and spoon sauce over.

Tom Harte is a retired faculty member from Southeast Missouri State University where he was an award-winning teacher, a nationally recognized debate coach, and chair of the department of Speech Communication and Theatre.
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