Queen Cleopatra of Egypt boasted of a wonderful complexion that was maintained by bathing in ass’s milk. Did her complexion glow? Did the queen’s palace have a stable of asses? How much milk would be needed for the daily ritual? Did Julius Caesar and Mark Antony have problems putting up with the smell of ass’s milk or did the queen use special cosmetics?
During Cleopatra’s time, bathing in ass’s milk was fine. But 2,000 years later comes the news that donkey’s milk helps you to stay in shape. The momentous discovery — that regular consumption of donkey’s milk keeps waistlines slim — was recently made in Rome. Rich in omega-3 and calcium, the milk was found to be better for the heart and kept energy levels high.
Mind you, Italian scientists worked hard on this discovery. Dozens of rats were fed on cow’s and donkey’s milk. The first made the rats put on weight and sluggish while those given donkey’s milk were trim and active. The latter had lower levels of blood and other fats that damaged the arteries and the heart. Earlier, research had proved that ass’s milk helped in curing allergies.
In India, where people are increasingly watching their weight, ass’s milk could become the rage. Till now, Indians have nurtured a healthy contempt for the donkey. This will disappear when fashion mags and fitness experts advocate its virtues. Imagine the boost to donkey’s milk if it was known that Aishwarya Rai consumed it during and after pregnancy and that ‘Jalsa’, the Bachchan household, had a separate stable for the animals.
We keep hearing strange anecdotes about fitness foods. Recently, a South Korean footballer ket it be known that the concoction prescribed by his grandfather to stay fit was frog juice. He admitted that frog juice tasted lousy but couldn’t deny that his fitness levels had reached new heights.
Travelling in rural Rajasthan long ago, I once sampled tea flavoured with camel’s milk. The milk was thick and a few drops were enough for a cup of tea. But the flavour was strong enough to put people off. While travelling to Shimla and Kufri with my family, we were served a yellowish, gooey substance that was butter made from yak milk. Earlier, my two kids had enjoyed their ride on the yak. But despite the best intentions, they did not take to yak butter.
It takes all things to make the world. And who knows, ass’s milk could become part of the beauty and health regimen.
V Gangadhar is a Mumbai-based journalist. The views expressed by the author are personal.