In my early days in Canada, I shared an apartment with a fellow student. He had been in Canada longer, and was helpful in showing me around the city as well as showing me how things were done in Canada.
We used to rustle up quick meals for ourselves in the little kitchenette – eating together when we were both home for dinner, otherwise, pretty much doing our own thing.
The shared refrigerator housed butter, eggs, bread and sundry condiments.
My flatmate didn’t have time for breakfast, and so didn’t need milk for cereal, he said.
“But what about tea?” I asked, when I first moved in.
“What about it?” he enquired in turn. “You use milk in tea? Who does that?”
Having teased me a bit about “weird Indian tastes”, he promised to pick some up on his way home.
The next morning, he told me I could enjoy my tea the way I liked it, with milk.
“It’s in the small tetrapack in the fridge,” he said, before heading into the shower.
I made myself a cup of tea, poured some of the liquid from the tetrapack into my mug, and took a big gulp.
And almost gagged.
It smelled and tasted really weird. I emptied the tea into the sink and poured myself some orange juice.
“Milk here tastes strange,” I said to my friend when he emerged from the shower. “I’m not surprised you don’t take milk with your tea.”
“How do you mean, strange?” he asked.
“I picked up skim milk. Don’t tell me, you wanted the full-fat variety?”
“No, but this tastes and smells weird,” I said apologetically. I didn’t want milk to become an issue.
“Let me check,” he said. “Maybe it’s past its expiry date?”
He reached into the fridge and pulled out an unopened tetrapack.
“You haven’t even opened it, what smell are you talking about?”
I pointed to the tetrapack sitting on the shelf in the door. “That one.”
He took one look at it and burst out laughing.
“You used egg whites! I keep that for when I want to make a light omelette. Didn’t you read what’s on the pack?”
I had to admit I hadn’t. I’d just assumed it was milk and used it.
“I must have been sleepy, in real need of tea,” I mumbled. He was still laughing when he offered to make me tea, with milk this time.
– Anand Sinha
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