I can never remember a time when Ovaltine was not in our kitchen. When I turned five years old, my father introduced me to the heavenly malted milk powder. He had been and still was a fan of the drink that “built a better kid.” It wasn’t my Mother’s slow brew hot chocolate, but better. If Little Orphan Annie and Captain Midnight endorsed it, that was good enough for my buddies and me. We were addicted to the stuff.
My father gave me his childhood Orphan Annie decoder pin since I was the firstborn son and the heir apparent to such collectibles. The radio show was long gone, so the pin was useless for spying, but I kept it in a goody box under my bed, just in case.
Cold winter nights usually included a mug of hot Ovaltine from the home galley right before hitting the sack. My sister and I couldn’t sleep without our steaming cup of Motherly love. The brew was almost always accompanied by a few cookies to quiet the midnight hunger pangs and keep the nightmares at bay. Ovaltine was considered its own food group; right up there with Eggs, Dairy, Kool-aid, and Peanut Butter and Jelly.
Sometime between 10 and 12 years old, my beloved Ovaltine vanished from our pantry shelf. It was an abrupt exit. I was heartbroken. I pleaded with Mother to bring my Ovaltine back; I was in withdrawal. But, unfortunately, my plea fell on deaf Mother’s ears. Her mind was made.
Nestles Quik was the new drink on the block. ” Deliciously smooth and chocolatey when mixed with cold milk, and it builds strong bones and fortitude,” said my Mother. Unfortunately, it was crap; a brown powder full of additives and fillers resembling warm chocolate spit when heated in a pan. It wasn’t Ovaltine.
The new product was all over the television shows on Saturday morning. The Nestle Quik cartoon rabbit zipped around the television screen like a manic Bugs Bunny, touting the health benefits of Quik. Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody were pushing it, and Roy Rogers was gulping it down as he chased the bad guys. But, of course, the good Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Greenjeans still drank Ovaltine, so all was not lost quite yet.
Decades go by, Ovaltine is replaced with boutique chocolate kinds of milk from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Sleeping meds are the norm. Insomnia is a national pastime. Unfortunately, I am a member of that pitiful sport.
A few months ago, I was shopping at my local H.E.B. grocery store. Ambling up one aisle then down another, list in hand, checking it twice and all that, it’s my typical weekly shopping trip. I coughed and dropped the list. Then, bending over to retrieve it, I came eye to eye with a jar of Ovaltine, sitting there next to the Nestle Quik and Bosco syrup. I hadn’t thought of Ovaltine in forty years. I grabbed a jar and threw it in my buggy, then, just for good measure, I grabbed two more jars, just in case. I never cared for Boscoe, but since Sienfield made it famous again, what the hell; I grabbed a jar of it also, just in case.
I called Mooch and told him that the world was good today; Ovaltine is back. He asked me to grab him a couple of jars, just in case.
It’s well past midnight, and I am sitting here writing on my laptop; I am finishing my second mug of hot Ovaltine before heading off to bed. It’s good to have my cup of Motherly love once again. I may enjoy a third cup, just in case.