It’s that time of year when yellow school buses are back on the roads. Riding on the school bus was not a highlight of my school day as a child. But walking home from the bus stop to be greeted by my mom with an after-school snack waiting for me was something to look forward to each afternoon.
That cold glass of milk was always accompanied by any number of fun snacks for my brother and me to enjoy. We had all of the popular snack foods in our kitchen cupboards including Hostess Cupcakes, Oreo cookies, Twinkies, Yodels, Scooter Pies, Mallomars and chocolate chip cookies. My love of chocolate goes all the way back. We still have that happy baby photo of me sitting with a chocolate cupcake on the tray of my highchair and chocolate frosting smeared on my little baby cheeks.
There are two types of snackers – those people who like salty foods and those who like sweets. I am definitely a fan of the sweets category. My chocolate snacking preferences also included chocolate eclairs, M&M candies and chocolate covered raisins.
My brother was more of a salty person. Snackers who prefer salty instead of sweet often enjoy munching on pretzels, potato chips, popcorn, salted peanuts or cashews, as well as Ritz, Saltine or Goldfish crackers.
Some of the popular snack foods when I was growing up were neither chocolate nor salty. Fig Newtons, Nilla Wafers and apple turnovers did not appeal to me at all. The definition of a snack, whether for after school or before bed-time, had to be something that can be eaten without a plate or cutlery, sitting in front of the TV or on the way upstairs to put on your pajamas. Not a bowl of ice cream or a hunk of cake – that’s dessert.
Chocolate milk was a special treat. This delicious beverage was almost a snack unto itself. In our childhood home, we tried different ways to make chocolate milk. We often stirred spoonfuls of chocolate powder from the Nestle’s Quick container into our glasses of milk. In the summer months, we bought plastic bottles of Hershey’s syrup to squeeze over ice cream or squeeze into a glass of milk and stir mightily to make a rich chocolatey beverage. Commercials for Yoo-hoo chocolate drink were on TV constantly during children’s programs. We did add some to our grocery cart once but I don’t remember enjoying the taste.
During the cold winter months, my family bought packets of Swiss Miss hot chocolate drink mix to stir into boiling water. We especially liked the type that included mini marshmallows in the mix. Influenced by all of those TV commercials, I remember asking to buy Ovaltine. I was very disappointed. It tasted more like a punishment than a treat. Ovaltine reportedly contains “twelve essential vitamins and minerals” and it tasted that way to me.
Actually chocolate milk is quite a healthy beverage. Chocolate milk is a good source of calcium and Vitamin D and has a nice balance of proteins and carbohydrates for a post-workout drink. Chocolate milk contains about the same amount of sugar as unsweetened apple juice. Many people who are lactose-intolerant can tolerate drinking chocolate milk because of the way that cocoa is digested in the body.
Chocolate was first used as a ceremonial beverage around 1,000 B.C. in what is now Central America and Mexico. Cacao beans were ground into a bitter paste and combined with water and chili peppers. The ancient Mayans and Aztecs revered this chocolate beverage for its aphrodisiac powers.
Kim Kovach considers chocolate one of the major food groups. Join Kim in writing stories based on life experiences at the Bedford Free Library on Fridays at 10am starting on October 4th. kimkovachwrites.com