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Arts & Culture

MIT's Very Old Milk

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

A caution now, the following story could turn even the most fervent dairy devotee vehemently lactose intolerant. Twenty-five years ago, a freshman at MIT needed some milk to make a mac and cheese. But he got distracted, didn't make the mac. And he stuck the unopened quart carton of milk in his dorm fridge and promptly forgot all about it.

NINA DAVIS-MILLIS: And under normal circumstances, you would think the story would end there. But no. That was just the beginning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Nina Davis-Millis has worked at MIT since 1985.

DAVIS-MILLIS: And for 21 of those years, I was housemaster at Random Hall.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's the dorm at MIT where the Milk...

DAVIS-MILLIS: The Milk. It's just known as the Milk.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Has sat unopened since 1994. Over the years, the Milk has become a mini icon on campus, a sort of mascot for Random Hall.

DAVIS-MILLIS: Random Hall is kind of out there - in a good way - edgy, zany.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And Random's zany undergrads have watched over their pet.

DAVIS-MILLIS: You know, year after year, that milk kept turning up again. And it was really pretty interesting and incredibly disgusting.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The decades wore on, and the Milk changed.

DAVIS-MILLIS: I do remember that there was a period where it was sort of opalescent. That was nasty.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It swelled up. It ate through the cardboard carton and had to be housed in its very own biocontainment vessel.

DAVIS-MILLIS: I am not confident that this milk has been consistently refrigerated over the years, nor am I sure it really matters at this point.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Time has brought distinction to the Milk. The year it turned 18, it applied for admission to MIT. We believe it got deferred. It was voted the ugliest manifestation on campus many, many times. Today, Nina Davis-Millis describes the Milk as rotten pumpkin orange. And what does Justin Cave think of his legacy at one of the nation's most laureate-laden institutions? Today he is a database consultant in Michigan. Twenty-five years ago, he was the freshman who first bought that carton of milk.

JUSTIN CAVE: It's kind of fun to think that maybe a future Nobel Prize winner that's living in the dorm - that they got a little bit of fun, had a little bit of a better time because I forgot about milk in the fridge.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The Milk of MIT. Its expiration date was October 20, 1994. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.