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Is our identity linked to the milk we drink?

Life, triumph and death of oat milk

 Is our identity linked to the milk we drink? Life, triumph and death of oat milk

A few years ago, for a handful of months, I decided to refrain from eating meat, contemplating a potential shift towards veganism. One of the significant challenges I faced during that time was finding an alternative to milk. Living in a not-so-large city made it difficult to find a plant-based beverage comparable to it. The only options available in supermarkets were soy, rice, and almond milk. Quickly, I became quite knowledgeable, having my favorite brand of soy milk for coffee or cereals, confidently ordering almond milk cappuccinos, and enjoying rice milk on its own as a refreshing drink. When I stopped experimenting, I happily returned to cow's milk, which, for me, remained unbeatable. I've never replaced it since. I'm a cow milk girl, and that's that. By the way.

Milk as a Symbol of Social and Political Identity

Years have passed, and now there are numerous alternatives. In recent times, oat milk has emerged as the winner. Whether natural, with added sugars, or fortified with proteins and B12, it doesn't matter. Over time, this beverage has become a part of personal branding, an element of a more complex identity. According to TikTok and Twitter users, when you enter a bar and the person working there asks if you want oat milk in your drink, it likely means they visibly consider you queer, that they recognize you. Simultaneously, from Tumblr to TikTok, cow's milk has been criticized, labeled disgusting, linked to conservative lifestyles, and associated with trad wives and more. In short, oat milk, initially promoted loudly by vegan influencers as a superior alternative (both in terms of health and environmental sustainability) to "real milk," has now become a personality trait framing a specific type of person. Even conservatives, in opposing liberal tendencies within Generation Z, have started derogatorily mentioning blue-haired individuals drinking oat milk.

 Is our identity linked to the milk we drink? Life, triumph and death of oat milk | Image 486602

Is Oat Milk Healthy?

Trends come and go, even in the food world. They emerge and die within online communities, break out of the initial bubble, explode, and then tragically go out of style. Sometimes, in one of these upheavals, they even become political symbols, banners of identity. Now, the time of oat milk has passed. Our attention shifts from veganism and sustainability to investigate more specific and individual aspects like glucose levels and stomach health, and revelations occur. According to French biochemist and author of the book Glucose Goddess Jessie Inchauspé, for instance: "Oat milk comes from oats, which are cereal seeds. Cereal seeds contain starch. When you drink oat milk, you're drinking starch juice, which has a lot of glucose and thus leads to a glycemic spike." Nutritionist Sarah Carolides adds: "It's mostly carbohydrates. Cow's milk has much more protein, and they are complete." Risks associated with oat milk consumption? Possible bloating and bacterial imbalance in the stomach. What should we drink? Animal milk or milk from nuts, it seems.

The New Trend is Cow's Milk, and We Have No Choice (or do we?)

Now, following the rules of social nutrition, anyone currently drinking oat milk should renounce it - pouring it down the sink like the protagonist with an alcohol addiction in a dramatic film, preferably in a bathrobe - and start drinking cow's milk straight from the carton, spilling it on the chin and wiping it with the sleeve like James Dean. Realistic? No. Healthy? Not really. Why should we give up drinking the milk we enjoy the most if we haven't encountered significant issues? Why should every micro-habit of ours be dictated by what people say on social media? Life is short, and dealing with food in a healthy way is often challenging. It's implausible, part of a certain ugly diet culture - prevalent even on television as well as on social media - and, to top it off, it puts immense pressure on us to ensure that everything we do, ingest, and consume is 100% as healthy as possible. Breaking free from this mental trap could be a start to a more serene life. Even if just a bit.

Food, Diet Culture, and Identity: A Complex Matter

When it comes to food, fashion, online identity culture, and political meanings, things become complicated, branching out and blending infinitely. Set aside the discourse of healthy or not healthy, and leaving aside that of sustainability (which is not the focus of this article), the ball now rolls to the rest. Let's ask ourselves: if oat milk has become the stronghold of a certain rainbow activism (and one can debate for hours whether it's right for it to be so and what it says about us and our superficiality), what happens if it disappears? The problem with trends, bubbles, and cores is that they tend to absolutize. Does our identity and how we perceive and are perceived in the world really depend on how we stain our coffee? It might sound superficial, but for some people, perhaps a bit, along with many other things (hopefully). The next step is to disentangle all these tiny crumbs that decide who we are and to which group we belong, and put them on a priority scale. Oat milk will end up quite low. Just like cow's milk. Are we compelled to seek our values elsewhere? Finally.