Living in the South for over 13 years, I’ve always been amazed by the general response to snow and ice. In particular, I am constantly fascinated by the grocery store dash for milk and bread. I grew up in West Virginia. Certainly, we didn’t have winters like Michigan or Maine, but it was still cold and snowy. Nevertheless, I can’t ever remember my family saying, ‘Run to the store and get milk and bread!’
I have contemplated this for quite a long time, so I have a few ideas. It may be that there is some secret knowledge that born and bred Southerners possess. Milk and bread may constitute the keys to some Gnostic cultural insight that I’m not privy to knowing. Or, it may be a kind of generally accepted joke. Whatever it is, I’ve decided that, in honor of winter, I’ll suggest some reasons why we might actually want or need milk and bread when ice and snow visit us.
1) We can drink the milk or eat cereal. We can make sandwiches out of the bread. This is the most obvious answer. And yet, it leaves me unsatisfied; hungry for some other answer, so to speak.
2) When the wind is stiff and the house poorly insulated, we can mix milk and bread into a paste and caulk the walls for warmth.
3) When mixed into paste, milk and bread could also be used to write HELP, NEED CHEESE PUFFS! (or LORTAB or XANAX) onto the sides of our houses. Unless they’re already white, or too snow covered for the letters to be visible.
4)) If a new ice age suddenly descends, we can use the milk and bread to lure animals like squirrels, rabbits, black bears and stray cats onto the porch, then drop cartons of frozen milk onto them, or snare them with nets made of plastic bread bags. We can then make breading to use whilst cooking them. Also applies to gerbils, guinea pigs, hermit crabs and large goldfish.
5) Milk and bread may be combined with sugar to make some sort of winter confection to satisfy our need for something to eat besides milk and bread.
6) Milk and bread can be bartered on the black-market and exchanged for more exciting things like i-pods and caviar. Except that everyone else also has milk and bread.
7) If one has purchased enough bread, it can be put under the back wheel of a vehicle stuck in the ice and snow to provide traction, so that the driver can venture forth to find… more milk and bread.
8) When the children are bored from being stuck inside for the 4-5 hours that snow actually lasts in the South, we can play games like ‘dunking for bread’, ‘pin the cap on the carton’, ‘cover baby sister in milk’ or ‘bread frisbee’. And our children can entertain us for hours asking ‘Mama, can we have something else besides milk and bread?’
9) Because we always get milk and bread but always forget dog food, we can mix the milk and bread and give it to the dogs (who will roll their eyes and eat it out of duty, but who will have already torn apart the trash for chicken bones).
10) We can burst upon the art world with ‘milk and bread sculpture’, which is almost as cool as ice sculpture but does not require power tools. (But may, unfortunately, clabber before art critics can descend upon our area to review our work for the New Yorker).
11) We can make hot chocolate and toast until the sun shines again. Unless, oh, you forgot the chocolate, didn’t you? Well, it’s back to milk and bread for you.
12) Milk and bread can be used in some sort of odd, Southern fertility ceremony. It must be true, considering the number of children born 40 weeks after the happy couples stocked up.
13) Milk and bread can be substituted for pseudoephedrine and ether in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Well, not really, but it’s much less dangerous and way more healthy.
14) It gives Southerners something to laugh about that people from other countries, like New England and Miami, don’t understand.
If any of these are right, please e-mail me and let me know. I have to get to the bottom of this! And if it turns out to be a carefully planned conspiracy by dairy farmers and bread makers, then bravo, guys, bravo! Capitalism is alive and well.