An interesting theory about Ovaltine.

I grew up drinking Ovaltine, preferably the Rich Chocolate variety. I love the stuff. However, I don’t think I’ve ever been romantically involved with anyone who liked it. I remember one old boyfriend who referred to it as “sewer water.” My husband loathes the stuff and mocks it at any available opportunity. Naturally, Christmastime is prime time for mocking Ovaltine, because we all watch A Christmas Story on TV and Ovaltine is practically a supporting actor in that flick. It was last Christmas that my daughter noticed that Ralphie was always drinking Ovaltine, and she asked what it was. I explained that it’s a kind of chocolatey powder you add to milk. The next time it seemed like a nice thing to do — after we got home from Christmas travels, and she needed a drink of milk — I offered her a chance to try some Ovaltine.

Now, my daughter was seven years old at the time, which means, yes, I had been deliberately withholding Ovaltine from her for seven long years. But my system has worked pretty well. By regarding it as a treat, and not something one consumes on a daily basis (as we might a glass of regular milk), it’s now a big deal wonderful thing when I say, casually, “hey, you want a glass of Ovaltine?” I don’t do this when my husband’s around, by the way. It something that happens after school, when it’s just me and my daughter, and Mama makes the rules. It’s like a bonding thing for us. Cold, cold glasses of Ovaltine, for me and my girl.

So this afternoon, my husband and my child and I were eating lunch. She was having a bowl of leftover tortellini salad from last night’s dinner. My husband and I were eating bologna and cheese sandwiches, which are not part of our usual repertoire here. But I bought some yellow American cheese and bologna the other day because I’d been reminiscing about how when I was in high school, I used to eat bologna and cheese sandwiches for breakfast every morning, and how good they were. I would take two slices of bread and toast the cheese onto the bread in the toaster oven, and then slap a circle of beef bologna into the middle of the slices of bread. It was a great breakfast, fast to assemble and the cleanup was a snap because there was just the plate to rinse off.

My husband, hearing this description, suggested that I should try to replicate this sandwich, and see if it was as good as I remembered it. So I did.

My husband, eating his sandwich, agreed that it would indeed be a good breakfast.

I said, “Of course, we’re not doing it right. To do it right, you wash it down with a glass of cold, cold Ovaltine.” My husband snorted, and my daughter crooned, “Ooooooovaltine. I love Ovaltine.”

“Chocolate milk with that disgusting chemical aftertaste,” my husband said.

“Our daughter’s pediatrician loves Ovaltine,” I said haughtily. I was, by this point, in the kitchen, loading my plate into the dishwasher. My husband was not within my line of vision but I could hear him rolling his eyes.

“She was a formula-fed baby,” he said. “So of course she loves Ovaltine.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, though I knew where this was headed.

“People who drank formula when they were babies will love Ovaltine,” he said, “and people who drank breast milk won’t, because they don’t like the taste of all the chemicals.”

“Hm,” I said.

“Our daughter’s doctor was a formula baby,” he said.

“How do you know?”

“She told us. When we took our daughter for her first checkup, when she was a couple days old, you told her that breast feeding wasn’t going so well, and she said, “So, formula’s fine. I had formula, and I’m ok.” I conceded that the doctor had indeed been approving of our feeding our little girl formula. “And you were formula fed,” my husband pointed out. “So it makes sense that the two of you love Ovaltine. But I was breast-fed, and I think it’s vile.”

I wanted to say, “You’re so full of shit,” but part of me thinks, “well, actually, that’s reasonable.” But is it true? Are people who were fed formula as infants predisposed to like Ovaltine? Are there any studies on this? Can anyone out there tell me?

In the meantime, my health’s been pretty good, and my daughter’s health record is sterling, and the Ovaltine doesn’t seem to be hurting us any. So as long as we both enjoy it, I’m gonna keep a jar of it on hand.


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