The London of my youth has and is disappearing: Evening Standard sellers, red phone booths, black taxi drivers and milkmen.
But two modern crises, Covid and climate change, could lead to the return of the traditional milkman.
I interviewed two local North London milkmen:
Chris Joseph, 43, from Willesden, runs mrmilkman.london: “Within two hours of lockdown being announced, we had 7000 orders online within 2 hours for milk delivery”.
“I started trading in 2012. We stick to restaurants, hospitals, offices and care homes. We usually start at around 11pm and work all night.
“How do you manage that?”
Chris laughs: “My philosophy is you can sleep when you’re dead”.
“But since lockdown, all the hospitality venues closed down, we are running at 50% capacity. The mayor is charging congestion charge every day, so restaurants have no customers. People used to drive in after 6pm. He’s shut down the city. We are increasing our business with residential customers. Both businesses and houses want their milk delivered in glass bottles, reusable and recyclable.”
“The problem is we can’t get hold of bigger bottles size than a pint. Businesses do want to change to glass but it becomes unworkable when you have to deliver 200 bottles of milk.”
Rob Kitchener, 55, of AM Dairies, lives in East Finchley and has been delivering milk since he was 8 years old, as his father was also a milkman. “When I was younger it was all bottles and houses, but gradually people switched to supermarkets and cartons. So I changed the business to delivering to offices in central London. I survived, lots of milkmen didn’t.”
What happened to them?
“Many of them became black taxi drivers…They’d finish early then spend the rest of the day doing The Knowledge”
“Since lockdown business has gone down 90 per cent. I’ve had to furlough staff.”
“We got lots of enquiries about delivering to households once lockdown started and got about 50 new customers. But in the last week 20 of them have reverted to buying from the supermarket. So it was a stop gap.”
“I’m lucky, I’ve got a private pension, I’ve been a sensible boy over the years and I’ll probably retire in January. I feel sorry for my staff. I don’t think things are going back to normal anytime soon. At the moment we aren’t even covering our fuel costs.”
Chris talks about the struggles faced by British dairy farmers in 2020. “They are having to just pour milk away. Prices have sunk and there is an excess”.
If there is another lockdown this winter, get your orders in now. Our milkmen, small businesses and farmers need our support.
Below I’ve created a delicious milk sorbet recipe and for those of you who are avoiding animal milk, some alternative milk recipes.
Fior de latte gelato recipe or milk sorbet
Fior de latte is Italian for flower of the milk, which is using the best part of the milk. Use full fat and preferably organic milk for this recipe. You will get a clean tasting ice cream, not too dissimilar to Mr Whippy, which matches well with rich foods such as chocolate cake.
- 35 g cornflour
- large pinch of sea salt
- 250 g caster sugar
- 600 ml whole milk
- 300 ml double cream
- Put the first 3 ingredients into a medium saucepan on a medium heat, then add 400ml of the milk. Whisk until boiling then maintain at that heat for 1 minute.
- Remove from the heat and add to a large bowl.
- Add the rest of the milk and the cream, whisking.
- Leave to cool.
- Add to your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
For these two alternative milk recipes, you will need a high speed blender and either a nut milk bag or a muslin/cheesecloth covered strainer. Both will last around 5 days in the fridge.
Oat milk recipe
- 50 g rolled oats
- 1 litre of water
- Pinch of salt
- 1 medjool date
- a few drops of either rapeseed oil (sunflower oil, hazelnut oil or coconut oil)
- Add all the ingredients to a high speed blender and whizz for 30 seconds.
- Strain through a muslin covered sieve.
The same technique can be used with blanched almonds and cashew nuts. Basically soak in water, add salt and a date, blend and strain.
Soy milk recipe
- 150 g soya beans
- 1 litre water
- Soak the beans overnight.
- Add 500ml water into a saucepan and warm over a medium heat.
- Drain the beans and grind with 500ml water in a powerful blender.
- Add this mixture to the pan and heat until it reaches 70C.
- Pour the bean mixture into a muslin covered sieve and strain. Squeeze through the muslin.
- You now have soy milk.