The ‘no milk, no sugar’ generation

CC BY 2.0, Voedingscentrum, 2016

CC-BY-2.0, Voedingscentrum 2016

The Dutch government-funded Nutrition Centre just published its new guidelines on healthy eating. One of their most important recommendations: drastically limit the intake of sugar. Strikingly, many Dutch people have already been doing this. Not by refraining from cake or biscuits, but by no longer taking any milk and sugar in their tea. Even the coffee is blacker than ever. The difference this makes is 6 to 8 grams of sugar per cup.

A striking proportion of young people nowadays prefers to take their drinks ‘straight’. We might call them the ‘no milk, no sugar’ generation.

They do not do this for overt health reasons; they just think adding milk or sugar is not really necessary. Since a variety of loose-leaf green and black teas and freshly ground coffee seem more widely appreciated and easier to get by again these days, it makes sense to get a good taste of the drink itself, unobscured by extra flavours.

Green tea, CC-BBY-3.0 Lisa Amy 2015

Green tea, CC-BY-3.0 Lisa Amy 2015

I suspect that some people find such preferences ‘difficult’, but the no-milk-no-sugar people actually seem in search of ways to make life simpler. Not easier: they can spend quite some time looking for the right shop, or at home grinding their own beans. But simpler: consisting of fewer things.*

The same people who form the no-milk-no-sugar generation, may for instance also choose not to have a car (of course, the example for this was set years ago, but it seems that a greater proportion of affluent people is participating this time); or choose to do less housework (as I suggested in a previous post). They seem to eat less salt as well.

Has a no-milk-no-sugar generation also risen in other countries, I wonder?


* Remarkably, the same people often do not like the taste of milk, unless it has been turned into yoghurt, hot chocolate, etc.


An unkempt hair from a bushy tail

A reader of the posts on the hairy-women scale and Life of Brian, sent me another example of the horrors of hair. Or rather, of the horrors of people’s imagination around hair. She had spotted a painting on the same theme.

At the moment, the city of Den Bosch in the Netherlands is hosting a big Jheronimus Bosch exhibition. This exhibition contains the restored painting of Saint Wilgefortis, a saint venerated in western Europe since the late Middle Ages.

Jheronimus Bosch, Crucified martyr.

Jheronimus Bosch, Crucified martyr, detail. On display in the Noordbrabants Museum, 13 February – 8 May 2016. Usually, the painting can be seen in Venice, in the Galleria dell’Accademia.

According to her legend, Wilgefortis was a princess who had dedicated her life to Christ. Then her father sold her to be married; to a pagan husband, no less. She prayed for Christ’s assistance. This was given her in the form of a beard. Apparently, it made her so repulsive that the pagan king refused to marry her. Her unfemininity had liberated her! (This is what her name indicates in many languages – ‘Liberata’ etc.) Of course, the story is not over yet. In his anger, her own father killed her in the same way her spiritual husband had been killed: on the cross. After death, she continued to work various miracles and to help innocent people whose liberty had been taken away from them.

On the recently restored painting by Bosch, and especially on the infra-red images that have been made as part of the Bosch Research and Conservation Project, a subtle beard and moustache have become visible.

In a double irony, Wilgefortis’s beard not only turned her into a monstrous woman, but also gave her the power of a man, that is, not to be wed without her choosing. And yet, this was only a very limited power, dependent on her real husband – Christ – and restricted to the negative ability to say ‘no’ to her father, but not extending to the positive capability of saying ‘yes’ to a religious life (she was murdered). She was still a woman, an underdog. But isn’t that just what you would expect from a Christian saint?

The fact that Wilgefortis’s story probably stems from a misunderstanding of images of a crucified Jesus in full robe and with crown (even Bosch’s painting might in fact picture a different martyr altogether!), does not make her subsequent veneration through the centuries any less real or any less significant. It even adds a layer of interest by showing how difficult people find it to deal with gender ambiguity.

Bosch’s painting is more than five hundred years old, Wilgefortis’s story even older. The fear and fascination with ‘hair in the wrong places’ go back a long way.

For more on bearded ladies, see my column on Conchita Wurst.