One of the strangest things for me to adjust to in France was that Milk (and eggs, actually) are purchased from the grocery aisle. Not the refrigerated dairy section. 95% of the milk sold in France has gone through a process called UHT, or Ultra High Temperature processing, which basically kills anything inside, but leaves the nutrients behind. This stuff can sit on a store shelf for about 6-9 months and really doesn’t taste much different. It is weird though, and it does have a slightly strange smell.
The alternative to the shelf stuff is to buy Fresh Milk from the dairy aisle. Fresh milk is a little different than back home. For one, I don’t think it’s homogenized. This leads to some weird lumpy bits in my coffee. It’s always fine for the first week or so, but then I start to see some build up around the top and bottom of the container. It passes the sniff test (‘Hey Sarah, does this smell funny to you?’) every time, and doesn’t taste funny, it just looks lumpy.
My theory here is that it’s just milk fat build up. My grandma used to tell me that the milk she used to buy would have solid milk fat floating at the top, and that people would choose their milk based on the amount of fat they could see. In the winter, this became ice cream and people would wake up early to fight over who would get the fat lump. Keep in mind, this was back when milk came from cows, not Safeway. I’ve never actually seen milk that didn’t come in a carton or can, so I couldn’t honestly say if the lumpiness is a normal thing or not, and Sarah and I certainly aren’t fighting over the lumpy bits. There’s a Haagen-Daaz store around the corner.