When Peter and I lived in Mountain View, I had a brief infatuation with buying milk in return-for-deposit glass bottles. It was made possible by the fact that Mountain View had a small dairy store, The Milk Pail, that sold milk in that form. I’m hoping to write a blog post about whether buying milk in bottles instead of paper cartons or plastic jugs is better (or indifferent) to the environment, so yesterday, after my family adventures in Palo Alto, I decided to drop in to The Milk Pail, check if they still sold milk in that form and take a picture. I thought I’d also chat with the clerks about the popularity of the milk, what the cost includes, and how much the deposit is.
First of all, The Milk Pail had changed a lot in the last 15 years. Much of what used to be the parking lot was now given over to crates and boxes with crisp, fresh produce. It was bustling with people, and I was actually lost in the narrow aisles for a bit until I found the portion that had been the original store. It was the same place in personality, but I was actually overwhelmed.
I knew from their web site that they’d remarketed themselves from a specialty dairy shop to “a European style open air market.” They were also clearly attracting a Russian clientele, since their web site also had a Russian section. I don’t know, though, if I could say they were like a Russian market. From my experience, the Russian food markets were more like a flea market of food, in which people screamed at each other a lot. The Milk Pail also wasn’t like the farmers’ markets in any urban city of the world, where the selection and prices are random. And it was philosophically the very opposite of an urban independent grocery store, which tends to have a small section of wilted, wrinkled produce and a large section of liquor. If anything, I thought it was like a smaller version of the Berkeley Bowl, with more cheese and less tofu.
The Berkeley Bowl is an East Bay institution. It’s essentially a huge produce store, with a small selection of other grocery items, like grains and cheese, to round out a meal. When I lived in Berkeley, it didn’t sell meat, so it was particularly loved by vegetarians and vegans. But omnivores loved it as well: they could get farm-fresh produce there, and buy the rest of what they needed at a regular grocery store.
Like the Berkeley Bowl, the Milk Pail was clearly popular among fresh food lovers. I saw people leaving with carts filled with produce. I didn’t see as much cheese and milk leaving the store, though I was only there briefly. In any case, it was interesting to see how the little store had evolved and grown. I did find the bottled milk and took a picture, but it was so busy, there was no time to politely chat. I’ll have to email the business owners to get the information I want, and you will see a post on bottled milk at some point…