It’s Amazing what Milk can do!

Thomas Jay Clark - Ecuador


March 20, 2012

I’m a dreamer, and this dream began watching smiling faces gulp down yogurt.

CARE’s investment of cows in three of our partner schools already betters student’s nutrition with the always handy supply of fresh milk. After a two-day workshop on milk products, their nutrition will not only be even better, but their parents will now be able to sell these milk products. Additionally, with the additional income from sales, parents will buy more fruits and vegetables, support the school’s disentagrating buildings, and encourage a high sense of well-being.

The stove-top set already boiling liters upon liters of milk and water as I entered the now crowded room at the local polytechnic university. The temperature of the people and the almost boiling liquids caused the room to feel like a combination a hot-yoga room and a sauna. At first, it felt relieving from the always chilly Cayambe mornings, but after four hours everyone just wanted to taste the fruits of our labors.

On Wednesday, I watched as excited teachers, parents, and students patiently learned the slow, but inevitably delicious process of cheesemaking from an expert dairymaker. Everyone loved the flavor, and I’m sure it was rough for them as well when they had to eat non-homemade cheese the next day. They were ecstatic about the cheese for more reasons besides it’s deliciousness, it would help their kids grow big and strong, better their economic standing, and better the future of schools in the community.

We also learned how to make manjar(it’s a lot like caramel—just milk and sugar.) The kids especially loved this sticky, sweet mixture. Ideally it’s spread on bread, but I caught a few kids eating it straight out of the container. This delicacy will surely sell!

Thursday brought a day full of waiting. This day’s main objective: learn how to make yogurt, included six hours waiting for the yogurt to cool. Our master dairymaker used this time to teach a better butter!

This butter is healthier, yummier, and simple to make. In a blender, combine a spoon or two of prepared butter(or margarine) with lots of fresh milk(or from the jug or carton!) It’s so simple, I almost feel dumb for not trying it before! It is really delicious and you get lots and lots of butter from this simple mixture.

We saved the best for last, yogurt. It too, took barely 30 minutes to prepare, but waiting for it to cool took much longer than expected. Thankfully, the results were worth the wait. Everyone wanted seconds and thirds of this slightly sweet and incredibly creamy yogurt. It tasted velvetty, something I’ve never experienced in store-bought yogurt.

With just over a month left here, working in the cantons of Cayambe and Pedro Moncayo, I won’t see any immediate changes or improvements in the schools or their students. But, I can hope that someday when I return, there are more cows in more schools, and that the economic standings of their communities are dramatically changed for the better.

Thomas Jay Clark