Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Just as my adult self has searched for the perfect single malt scotch, my childhood self searched for the ideal chocolate milk. It wasn’t a quest I was consciously aware of as a kid, but looking back on it, chocolate milk was just as much a preoccupation as G.I. Joes or The Three Stooges.

Since my mom discouraged us from eating sugary snacks and seldom kept any in the house, chocolate milk was one sweet treat that was readily available when I needed a quick sugar fix. Unfortunately, the only chocolate additive we had in the house was a sad, neglected can of Hershey’s chocolate syrup which sat in the back of the refrigerator covered in hardened brown drizzles. Before the nifty plastic squeezy bottles, the only way chocolate syrup could be purchased was in tin cans that you had to open with a can opener. Once those triangular holes were punched into the top, the syrup was exposed to all manner of odors and bacteria. My mom was clever enough to put one of those generic plastic lids on it that she found at the supermarket, so we weren’t subjected to hints of onion in our chocolate syrup, but no one every bothered to wipe off the gooey overflow after they were done with the can, so six months in, the once proud Hershey’s label was oozing with cocoa dribbles resembling a Hershey Park mascot with a head wound. Having to wrestle with that can and get sticky globs of chocolate on my fingers was sometimes not worth the effort for a lousy glass of chocolate milk.

Not to mention the fact that the stuff never dissolved properly. No matter how vigorously you stirred, the first few sips were mostly milk flavored, the last few sips were violently chocolatey, and half the syrup still clung tenaciously to the bottom of the glass. Not cool.

On the other hand, Nestles’ Quick powder looked invitingly clean and simple. You put a spoonful in the milk, you stirred a few times, and the powder dissolved completely. That looked like a great solution, plus they had that clever rabbit mascot imploring you to drink it slow, but then sucking it down in one gulp. That had to be terrific! My mom wasn’t so convinced, however. I just think she preferred Hershey’s chocolate over Nestles’. Both tasted fine to me. I was grading on neatness and efficiency.

In the late 60s and early 70s, PDQ Chocolate Mix was also heavily promoted. The cool part of PDQ was the fact that it came as little, coarse pellets that dissolved in milk. I really lobbied hard for this stuff, but Mom was again reluctant, this time because it was made by Ovaltine. At the time, I wasn’t sure what she had against Ovaltine, but I wanted to try this PDQ stuff. Eventually, she broke down and got me some. I can’t remember what it tasted like, but I really liked it, which made it all the more frustrating when I had to beg my mom for a new jar every time we ran out. She would usually say, “But we have Hershey’s syrup in the fridge.” Ugh.

By the time I was eight or nine, I became fascinated with old radio shows. My parents would often wax nostalgic about them, and we had an LP record with dozens of radio show intros on them. I really got excited when a local radio station started playing some of the shows, like The Shadow and The Lone Ranger, on Friday evenings, and I also discovered that my local library had some available on cassette. One radio serial I really loved was Captain Midnight, and he was sponsored by Ovaltine. The commercials for Ovaltine were so effective, I drooled for the stuff every time, even though I had never tasted it.

Finally, I asked my parents if we could get some. Their faces went gray as if I had suggested that we take up human sacrifice as a hobby. “Ooohh, I never liked that stuff as a kid,” my dad warned ominously. My mom readily agreed, “It sorta tasted like malted milk, but…” Her voice trailed off with a wince. Still, I had to find out for myself. Heck, Ovaltine made PDQ, right? With even greater reluctance than the PDQ purchases, my mom put a jar of Ovaltine in the shopping cart, immediately regretting this waste of her meager food budget. I was not deterred, however, and excitedly made myself a glass of Ovaltine before Mom had finished unbagging the groceries. Always listen to your parents, kids! It did taste like malt, but malt that was processed in an oil refinery. I can’t quite describe the odd chemical flavor it had, but I surely didn’t want to ever drink it again. Mom looked at me knowingly, and I accepted my guilt. I had made her waste money on a jar of Ovaltine that would sit in our pantry until my freshman year of college.

Although my parents were willing to keep powders and syrups around the house, they seldom wasted money on sugary drinks like bottled soda or Hi-C Fruit Drink. That’s why I was secretly jealous of the kids that could get Yoo-Hoo. I was mainly attracted to the bottle. Currently, they come in 9 oz. bottles, but my memory from the 70s was a shapelier 6 oz. bottle. Anyway, I really wanted to hold one of those sweaty little bottles in my hand and partake of its chocolately goodness. When I started receiving an allowance, I blew some of my precious coin on a Yoo-Hoo. My disappointment did not quite match the Ovaltine fiasco, but I was not pleased. My first reaction was that it tasted watered down, but it was more than that. I knew this was not real milk. This was some sort of non-dairy representation of milk, feebly flavored with an uninteresting chocolate-like substance. I still drank it on occasion, though, mainly so I could hold that sweaty bottle.

I guess it was all these chocolate milk disasters which led me to go cold turkey as a teenager. I can’t tell you the last time I tasted chocolate milk, and as much as I like chocolate, the thought of it does not appeal to me. Now single malt scotch, that’s another story…


Jim B said...

I really enjoyed your post and have fond memories of Captain Midnight as well. There is a full episode you can listen to online at a website called

It might be worth another listen! :)

Car Guy 3.0 said...

PDQ Rocked. Can't believe Ovaltine bought them out and then quit making it. Tragic. The little beads were great sprinkles on ice cream too. And I have to agree with you, Yoohoo tastes like brown water to me.

Car Guy 3.0 said...

PDQ Rocked!!! And the little beads were awesome sprinkles on ice cream. I can't believe Ovaltine bought them and then quit making it. Great post. Brought back the memories.

Anonymous said...

PDQ was the bomb. I never really knew what they put in it, being the 70's and all.

However, I still have only two eyes, so it couldn't have been all bad.

LoveableLittleButtercup said...

As I read this I am drinking a cold glass of chocolate milk made with Hershey's. I really miss PDQ. I loved that stuff when I was a little girl.

Anonymous said...

I loved PDQ, Bosco, Hershey's Syrup, Nesquick, and also Carnation Instant Breakfast mix. All were good.