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Winter Storm = Bread+Milk, But Why?

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In the Charlotte region, when a snow storm is in the forecast, people hear about it well in advance. And people prepare well in advance with trips to the grocery store to stock up on plenty of food ... especially bread and milk. For years the mystery of why bread and milk are the must-haves during a winter storm in Charlotte has puzzled WFAE's Simone Orendain. So she stopped at a couple of grocery stores to try to get to the bottom of the mystery. Here's a page out of her reporter's notebook.

On the cloudy Friday afternoon before the snow flakes start to fall, Koren Adams is loading her back seat with groceries. Among her dozen shopping bags I spot the telltale gallon bottle of milk and a loaf of bread. She says, "Just needed some things in the house too, but some staple items too. Milk, bread."

My ears perk up.

Adams was born and raised in Charlotte, so I'm certain she'll be able to crack the mystery.

"Milk really can't go bad if it's freezing cold outside. You can keep it in the garage. Bread you can always make sandwiches and things like that in case the power does go out," she says. Adams says stores and businesses usually close when the weather's bad, so she just wanted to be well stocked.

So, okay. That all makes sense. These are staples and they'll keep. But is that all there is to this phenomenon that produces TV news images of half stock shelves and meteorologists warning of "bad weather is on the way so be sure to get your bread and milk!"

When the buzz about the weather gets stronger, I half expect my coworker Carol to ask me, "Simone, have you gotten your bread and milk yet?" My answer is usually no. I just make sure I have stuff in my cupboards, nothing perishable or that needs cooking.

A colleague from the Midwest joked that maybe people in the South make French toast when they're hunkered down, safe and sound, off the icy roads. But how do you make French toast if the power's out? That's a mystery for another time...

At another grocery store in north Charlotte, the snow is falling and I find another native Charlottean. I'm hoping to get the answer from Dorian Mills: "A lot of meals you prepare include milk," explains Mills. "And then a sandwich is something that you can just easily make instead of snacking on cookies or something, you can just put a sandwich together. It's just easier."

Yeah, I get it. Bread and milk are staples, but my gut tells me there's another explanation. I mean, why don't people run out and get bread and milk all over the country?

Moments later I come across Kim Abernathy. She's originally from eastern North Carolina. I'm very hopeful. But she says she really doesn't know why - at first. She says, "I grew up in the rural area and it's always been that way. Ever since I was a little girl. I always remember the bread and milk. Because you can kinda - the milk probably comes from making snow cream."

Bingo!

"Snow cream which you don't usually do in the city because it's too polluted. But you take the milk and add a little bit of sugar with cinnamon and if you have really clear snow, you have snow cream. It's almost like a snow smoothy! Yeah it's probably that's what the milk is about. The bread probably would be for sandwiches because your electricity would go off," says Abernathy.

In a state where - unless you live in the mountains - snow is just not too common in the winter, this makes sense! What better way to have this once in a while weather event than with a once in a while treat? I verify this with our engineer who grew up just north of Ashville and he says, yes - milk's for snow cream and bread will go with your peanut butter when your power's out.