Friday, June 25, 2010


"Cream ranges in richness from British "top of the bottle", which contains barely more fat than milk itself ..."

So begins Alan Davidson's entry on cream in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food (a tome that every gastronome worth their salt should possess).

However, I must take Mr Davidson up on this, as I am sure, would many others who grew up in post-war Britain. The "top of the bottle" has been an integral part of generations of childhood culture and stretches further into the realms of food marketing etc.

In the early hours of the morning, well before we had arisen, the milkman in his small electric-powered milk cart, collect the previous day's empties, read Mum's note and deposit two, three, four glass pint bottles of fresh milk with shiny silver or gold foil tops (depending on the fat content) on the doorstep.

On awaking I or my brother would collect them and vie for the "top of of the bottle" cream on our breakfast cornflakes.

Except someone would often get there before us ... the local Blue Tits!

A small brightly-coloured bird, enchanting to children, that over the decades of home milk deliveries learned to associate shiny bottle tops with a free and hearty breakfast!

I cannot recall whether deliveries to your doorstep by the local milkman from the local dairy are still, at least in some places, a part of British culture. I suspect not in this day and age of popping out for a tetrapacked litre of semi-skimmed. I also suspect that home deliveries of the weekly groceries, the daily newspaper (and the much awaited weekly Beano or Dandy) popped through the letter box in time for Dad's breakfast (or sitting on the loo for yonks as I'm getting ready for school) etc are rare in the current age.

However, during our leukaemia soujorn in Rochdale, a fish van would pass up the Rooley Moor Road once a week ... so all might not be lost.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The milk man is alive and well in Dublin, Ireland. However he has a proper refrigerated van and if we want to change the order we text him. It's a lovely mix of the old tradition and new technolgy. It is a little more expensive than the supermarket price but well worth a great service - we never run out of milk and he is the eyes of the neighbourhood.

Long live the milk men !