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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Things that are cool in Israel #11: Milk Bags (& their awesomely smart holders!)

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What???  Four years in Israel and only 10 things are cool?  Impossible!

(And yes, shocking but true; another aliyahversary has passed, marking another year for us living in this amazing Holy Land!)

So here we are with a long-belated #11 – something we’ve been enjoying since our first few days here: milk in bags.

Now, as Canadians, milk bags and their cute rectangular plastic holders were not new to us as they are for many olim from the U.S. and elsewhere.  Coast to coast in Canada, walk into any supermarket and you’ll see a huge display of them:

Image result for canada milk

Photo © Alex Dawson via Wikimedia

So I grew up using milk bags, both loving and hating them.  They’re very handy to keep around, they don’t hog space in your fridge, you can pop them in the freezer if you bought too many.  But on the other hand… when you need to open them, you have to run around looking for a pair of scissors.

(So much so that in 1979, a Toronto inventor created the “Snippit,” a little device that hangs on the freezer and cuts milk bags open.)

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(photo credit © Tangibles, the Snippit company)

But no need for a Snippit in Israel!

Here in Israel, there isn’t as much variety of milk, but the bags are definitely the default way to buy it, for all the advantages listed above.  But there’s one more thing that takes it right over the edge into “Things that are cool” territory:  milk bag holders with built-in cutters.

Take a look:

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(Yes, I’ve put in the milk bag upside-down…!)

This is one of the most awesomely smart designs I’ve ever seen.  Just pop the bag in, pull down the corner a little, and SLICE – you’re done!  (Hint: I fold up a paper towel and stick it in beneath the bag because just a teeny drop of milk sometimes spills when you do this, or when pouring in general.)

One of the brands (it’s pronounced Yotvata/יטבתה) even has milk bags that are designed to be angular, so you can pop them in and slice them open even more easily:

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Notice this spare milk bag is lying on a plastic bag.  One of the minor disadvantages of milk bags is that they’re just a teeny bit more flimsy than cardboard or plastic cartons, which means that one in a thousand of them will pop open in your shopping bag, especially if it’s up against something pokey.  To prevent this, swipe a couple of baggies from the veggie aisle when you walk into the grocery store, and slip your milk bags into those.

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These bags here are 3%, which is the most common choice, but 1% is pretty commonly available as well. 

Note that the standard colour coding of the bags is different from what we were used to in Canada, and probably from what you’re used to wherever you were, so don’t let the colours fool you.  In Canada, red is called “homogenized” (even though most commercial milk is homogenized) and contains 3.25% fat; blue is 2%, called “two-per” (at least that’s what we called it!), and light blue is 1%, which is called “skim.”  (see the picture above, where you can pick out some of the colours)

Here in Israel, blue is 3%, as you can see above.  1% is red.  There are other varieties, including “enriched,” which is actually what the angular bag is above.  I can’t really taste the difference.

You should also know that basic milk is subsidized by the government, so you’ll find standardized low pricing in any store you buy it in, along with eggs and a basic loaf of (very unhealthy) white bread.

One more thing that we buy here in Israel that was kind of hard to find in Canada is BOXED milk.  This is known as חלב עמיד / chalav amid / shelf-stable milk.  In some places, it’s also known as “UHT (ultra high temperature) pasteurized milk.”  These boxes don’t need refrigeration, so they’re super-handy to stash in the cupboard for when you run out of regular milk and don’t feel like running to the local makolet (convenience store) – or the middle of the night, when the local makolet is closed.

Image result for ‫חלב עמיד‬‎

Notice the box says the words “chalav amid” very prominently so you know you can keep it out of the fridge.  Any other boxed milks CANNOT and should not be stored out of the fridge unless you’re certain they are “amid” (shelf-stable).  We’ve found boxed chalav amid milk in two sizes, large (1 litre) and small (250ml).  The small one is a very handy size for two children who want to bring breakfast cereal on the train.

(Be sure to hold onto the bowl on a moving train!!!  Last time GZ did this, his cereal slid off the table and straight into my backpack and all over the floor… ugh, what a disgusting mess.)

Oh, and one last thing while we’re talking about the delights of milk bags.  It’s worth pointing out that over the last 4 years, our kids have learned to love and almost take for granted (though we don’t buy it often) that classic Israeli childhood delight known as “shoko basakit” (שוקו בשקית).  This is basically a small (200ml?) bag full of chocolate milk.  Just gnaw off the corner and away you go. 

Here’s the shoko from Yotvata, the same angular brand as above, in a convenient 225ml size:

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Hmm… this post is a little longer than I thought it would be.  Just a quick, simple post about something cool going on here.  I guess I’m just “milking” it for all it’s worth. Smile

I’d love to hear your experiences of milk or anything else that’s cool in Israel… let me know in the Comments!

(Awesome knife-and-fork-and-milkbag title image © Arielinson via Wikimedia)



Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


2 comments:

  1. The original milk bag holders (we have a variety) didn't have the cutter, and people would bite off the end, yuck. In some supermarkets there are thin plastic bags next to the bagged milk to keep the rest of the food clean.

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    1. Well, I'm glad they invented this - it's made our lives wonderful in such a small, sweet way. Also smart to give out bags, given that a) people are going to take the veggie bags anyway, and b) they don't want milk bursting out all over their checkout area. When we get Shufersol online delivered, they bag the bags as well.

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