Highlights of 2008: Got Milk?
In Brazil, while driving along any main highway, you might chance upon a roadside restaurant and store called Vaca Preta, which translates from the Portuguese meaning Black Cow. What makes the Black Cow different from, say a Steak-N-Shake in the United States, or a Happy Eater in the United Kingdom is that the Black Cow has a cow (not always black) in a pen in front of it. For a small fee, you can have the farmer on duty squeeze you off a glass of milk while you wait.
He'll even flavor it for you, if straight, still-warm-from-being-inside-the-cow, milk is not your thing.
We were stopping at Vaca Preta for lunch on our last day of a birding trip throughout southeastern Brazil. The restaurant inside was famous for its sausage sandwiches (not beef burgers??) and our guide, Paulo Boute, had been extolling their virtue all morning long. So we decided to eat first and watch the cow-milking action later.
Inside was a fire pit, smoking and sizzling, where they cooked the sausages, onions, bread, and melted the cheese for the sandwiches. This was a good sign. My heart always sinks when I walk into a roadside eatery, ravenous from a day of birding, only to find frozen burritos, pre-made sandwiches, and a microwave. This place was cooking real stuff on an actual fire—caveman style.
Then it was time for the Milkmaster 3000 to do his thing. We went outside and gathered around the cow pen. A strong-armed farmer gave us a smile and a tip of his cowboy hat. Paulo ordered for himself and was a bit surprised and disappointed when the other four of us, all Americans, did not place orders, too. Now I am always up for trying anything, but something told me that unpasteurized milk right from a Brazilian cow, now matter how creamy and wonderful, might not be a healthy choice. In fact I was pretty sure I remembered reading on the U.S. State Department website covering travel to Brazil, a paragraph that said:
DO NOT DRINK unpasteurized milk from Vaca Preta.
And here is the aforementioned milker and milkee, shooting the frothy white milk right into Paulo's cup. Enjoy!
I can vouch for the authenticity of this video because I was there. And I would also like to say that the commentary you hear in the background was not from Bill of the Birds, or any of my fellow Americans. I'm just sayin'....