I was thinking this morning, after a disturbing dream last night, that I actually remember milk delivery.
I'm not all that old--not quite forty, yet, though it's looming--but I remember a silver container on my parents' front porch where a couple of times a week a milkman would place a few glass bottles of milk. Years later when we lived in a small city surrounded by farmland we had milk delivery again: once a week someone would deliver whatever Mom had ordered on the previous week's list--milk, eggs, yogurt, even cheese, I think. Sure, Mom could also get these items at the store, but if the weekly delivery saved even one trip to the store a week it was well worth it.
My disturbing dream last night? Shopping and shopping at a huge grocery store, bigger than any I'd ever seen, and reaching the front to find that in the single refrigerated case where milk was stored only three gallons of milk remained--and two of them were warm, while the third was icy and looked spoiled. I was paying for the rest of the groceries and wondering how I would ever buy milk--and flour; my dream-self suddenly realized she was also out of flour, and there was none to be found in the stores--and when I woke up it took a minute before I realized I wasn't actually out of either item.
So as I lay there, thinking about my dream, I remembered milk delivery. And that made me remember the glass bottles, too--it makes me feel old to admit this, but I remember the first time I saw plastic milk gallons, and how ugly and big and heavy and wrong they seemed.
Plastic was easier to ship long distances, of course, which made it possible for supermarkets to get the best prices by buying milk far beyond the immediate area. Supermarkets also sold milk cheaper than the dairies that delivered, so soon the milkman wasn't around any more, either.
Was it just the cheaper prices that made the milkman all but disappear? Or was it also the fact that there was no one at home to answer the door and bring the milk inside before it could spoil?
What happened to the butcher, and the greengrocer, too? Supermarket, again? Convenience and ever-cheaper prices over the connection to a person who knew what cuts of meat you liked, or who went out of his way to carry the freshest local produce? We're a generation or two away from that world, but how amazingly different it seems from our fast-paced Super Big Box Store approach to grocery shopping.
But that approach may eventually have to go.
My dream centered around milk in plastic bottles, and flour. Wheat prices are skyrocketing as demand exceeds supply--demand caused by the fact that our local farmers sell that wheat all over the world. Milk prices are getting higher and higher, too--and those plastic, petroleum-based bottles can't be helping the situation any, as rising fuel costs impact the overall price of consumer goods.
Maybe one day in the future we'll buy our milk in glass bottles from local farmers, and get flour from locally-grown wheat, too, because it will be cheaper than sending everything halfway around the world and back again before we can use it. Maybe those parts of the country where not much is grown will be the only places where you have to pay a premium for food; maybe the rest of us will get our meat from a local butcher and buy locally-raised produce at a farmer's market or an actual grocer's shop.
Maybe our country will have to realize that the Super Big Box Store was a temporary madness that gripped us all, giving us lower and lower prices at an international cost we couldn't forever afford.
And maybe we'll even be able to get our milk delivered again.
A girl can dream.