Goat Milk and Cheese

The first time I stepped foot in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) was when I drove from New York to Seattle and continued on up to Alaska where my folks were living (and would live for the next 20 something years). My initial impression of the PNW was a snap judgment: I didn't like it. People drove too slow, were too polite, drank too much coffee, and wore grungy clothing. And the bagels. There wasn't a real bagel for 5000 miles.

I think at the time I was stuck on New York. If I liked Seattle then I'd be cheating on the big apple, so I didn't really take a look or consider the option of the PNW as being beautiful or vibrant or interesting. We continued to drive north and ended up on Lopez Island, one of the San Juan Islands. We took a late night ferry to Lopez, and when we drove off the ferry we pulled into the first state park we could find and pitched a tent in the dark. I was traveling with my friend Kim (an old soccer team member of mine), my very large dog, and myself. In the morning, I was awakened by my normally calm dog scratching on the tent to get out. Strange, he'd always been able to hold his urine longer than this. Never the less I proceeded to peel myself out of the sleeping bag, place him on the leash (I'm glad I did), and unzipped the tent. It was dawn. Rays of the sun beamed through the openings of the trees, condensation created a foggy, mystical affect near the surface of the ground, and all was quiet and fresh. And there were a million rabbits and a thousand deer milling around the park, in the campsite. I thought I was dreaming. I had to blink twice, and talk myself out of freaking out. Of course I am exaggerating about the number but you get the picture. My dog lunged and the critters scattered. I still wasn't impressed by the PNW. Hard sell.

We continued up the Yukon into Alaska and down to Anchorage. Everybody made it north ten pounds heavier (Note: You don't need trail mix on a long road trip in the car).

I did return to the Pacific Northwest a year later, and this time I would take up residence (though I swore I'd return to upstate to reside one day). My reasoning at the time was there were at least five friends that I'd gone to college with who'd come to settle here. Welp, months became years, years became marriage and kids and you know the rest. Relationships change, professions and careers even change. People find their passions.

One of my close friends studied photography in college. She is an amazing artist and photographer, but her heart and dream was always to be a goat farmer. It took a while but she's been achieving that dream for the last several years on one of the islands in the south sound. I try to catch up with her in person every several months. Our last date was going south to get a male goat in Olympia to mate with her female goats (my life is slightly interesting). It was a good visit in the car down. Did you know that male goats urinate on their heads to attract females, and what they eat will dictate to some extent the smell and taste of the milk and cheese?

Goat farms are fairly common in the Pacific Northwest, as are sheep flocks. I have seen many small flocks in the San Juans as well as the north and south sound islands. In general, goat milk is drunk far more frequently in the world than is cow milk.

According to the National Cancer Institute's compilation of studies on food and cancer risk, dairy from cows should be limited to no more than 4 servings per week. The reason being that cow milk/cheese is high in omega 9 fatty acids which are associated with inflammation and an increased risk of cancer development. Cow's are often fed grains consisting of corn and wheat which do have omega 9's. They are less likely to be pasture fed. Many are also treated with growth hormones.

The same recommendation does not hold true for goat milk and cheese. Goat flocks tend to be small, they are most likely allowed to consume grass which contains the anti inflammatory omega 3 fatty acid compared to omega 9 fatty acids. Caretakers of goats are less likely to use hormones on their flocks too.

Goat milk, as compared to cow milk, is higher in total fat and protein (when I couldn't breast feed my first child, I resorted to using goat milk); and the fat is different and more digestible than cow milk. It is also higher in essential amino acids. It is richer in medium chained triglycerides whose consumption positively affects brain and gut health. There's less lactose so folks with lactose sensitivities are able to drink it .

Goat milk contains a higher amount of Vitamin A, niacin and also vitamin B6. It is higher in calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron copper and magnesium than cow milk.

Bottom line is that goat milk is a great source of protein and calcium, two nutrients that one needs during treatment. Goat milk products might be a healthier option in your diet.

You can find goat cheese in supermarkets, coops and at farmers markets. Most stores also carry goat milk and yogurt.

As far as cheese goes there is chevre (aka goat cheese), brie, nabbabo (real name), gouda and many other soft and hard cheeses with french names. Costco has a delicious goat brie (that you ardent cow cheese fans would never know the difference).

One of my favorite side dishes to make with goat cheese is a warm beet (roasted) salad with goat cheese (recipe in Cooking through Cancer Treatment to Recovery). The beets are roasted in the oven and then tossed with olive oil, walnuts, balsamic vinegar, a little maple syrup or honey and the goat cheese. This dish has a very earthy yet sweet and salty flavor. It is wonderful for bowel and gut health, and contains a good amount of potassium and magnesium and soluble fiber.