Grandma Lessons


My grandma never talked about the matters
of the heart or complicated feelings.
She hadn’t heard of Freud, or Buddha, or Quran,
and could not quote from Bible.

But half-way through the day
she would pour out the ready curdled milk
from the old clay jar to eat.
Rinse out the jar but gently, lukewarm, she said,
For you want the goodness attach onto the walls.
Then she poured in fresh foaming milk
Into cracked heirloom clay
And set it on a wooden bench to curdle.

Just never close it.
Never close the vessel, was her warning.
For when it’s closed,
The milk turns bitter.



About BeeHappee

Where have all the bees gone? Where have all the flowers gone?
This entry was posted in Human Condition, Poetry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Grandma Lessons

  1. noblethemes says:

    Beautiful reminiscence … But I sense an important ~ simply profound, profoundly simple ~ message within your poetic reminiscence. 🙂

  2. shoreacres says:

    I don’t remember ever hearing of this process. Is the curdled milk like cottage cheese? or buttermilk? Or is it what Goldilocks ate — curds and whey? I’ve never thought about curds and whey as an actual food, but now I’m wondering if it isn’t part of the cheese-making process.

    Apart from all that — the lesson is clear. Closed hearts do become bitter. One of the best examples is a main character in a famous holiday story from years ago. No — not the Grinch, although he’s a good example, too. Can you guess? (I’ll stop by and tell you, of course!)

    • BeeHappee says:

      Good questions, Linda. So we just call it soured milk. A bit similar to kefir, but the difference is that soured milk is just milk fermented by the milk bacterias themselves, and have bit milder flavor, while kefir fermentation also involves the mushroom, and is a stronger flavor. Since we only used our own fresh unpasteurized milk, it was not difficult to sour it. You’d leave it at room temperature for a few days, and you can see when it is ready. It has been a very important staple for Lithuanians to eat with some boiled potatoes – poor countrymen’s food, soured milk, and dill potatoes. The fermentation process does not work with store bought pasterized milk since the bacteria has been killed. To make ricotta, you can use just a lemon or different accid to make milk curdle and pasterized milk will work. Oh, but I miss the curdled milk so much… Need to sneak in raw milk to be able to taste it again. Women would keep soured milk in clay jars, and yes, you would not wash with soaps or hot water, good bacteria could just stay in the jar for the next batch.

      Are you talking about Ebenezer Scrooge? 🙂 I took kids to see a pretty good theater production of Christmas Carol on Black Friday (appropriate?). We always enjoy the story and the acting was really quite wonderful. I think we all could benefit from some ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.

  3. Joanna says:

    I agree with you about the unpasteurised milk is much better and sours differently. We don’t drink soured milk but we do kefirs with it and it is rich and creamy at the moment. I do wonder about souring it in clay jars though, rather than the plastic ones we use now. Probably much better for the finished product

    • BeeHappee says:

      If you have a choice, go for the clay. I am a big stickler to taste nuances when it comes to keeping/cooking/eating in clay, cast iron, wood, etc.

      That soft cheese they make in the Baltics where you heat up the soured milk, then place it in the bag and let it drip – grandma had the cheese press – is so yummy to eat fresh with honey, or dry it to harden with cumin and eat it with beer. Can you tell I so need to visit home? 🙂

  4. smilecalm says:

    wonderful mixture of heart,
    without unnecessary words
    getting it just right 🙂

  5. blazeburgess says:

    Yeah. That’s the way, isn’t it?

    I never met my grandfather, but he was supposedly a bit like that. Raised himself after his parents died, read all of Dickens on a factory wage, would never talk about that. Grandmother used to say about him “Still rivers run deep.”

    There’s a quiet dignity to all that. And a subtle profundity to “when it’s closed / the milk turns bitter.” One that I admittedly lack for all I’ve read.

  6. shodospring says:

    This was beautiful, on manyt levels. The art and tradition of souring milk. And the need to stay open. Thank you.

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