L wanted chocolate malt powder to put on some vanilla ice cream the other day.  We allow ourselves an indulgence every so often, and the memory of sprinkling malt powder over the top of ice cream—enjoying the slight crunch of flavor on the initial bites and then being treated to chocolate creamy milk at bowl’s end—made me race to the store.

It wasn’t easy to find.  At store one, I located a wide assortment of jars of sticky stuff or liquidized candy bars to pour on top of ice cream and containers of chocolate sauce to squirt into milk, but I couldn’t find malt.  I worried that it had disappeared, a tragic loss caused by a fast-food, instant-gratification society that orders shakes rather than malts, having grown up with McDonald’s rather than real ice cream shops, a nation too impatient to stir something into milk.

I was being unfair, of course.  The current generation has brought back so many of the simple pleasures and hand-made items that the one preceding them ran over and left for dead on the highway of progress.  But I had interviewed at least two 15-year-olds, the driving force behind modern consumer trends, about malts, and they both looked at me as if I were asking them if they liked rutabaga roll-ups or Sonny and Cher.

I continued my quest.  I couldn’t come home empty handed.  My persistence paid off. By getting down on my hands and knees at store number three, I found a container of Carnation Malted Milk powder on the bottom shelf, the sad shelf filled with things that are no longer advertised (or dusted, apparently), beneath jars of candy sprinkles and expired hot cocoa mix.  Excitedly I brought it home, but wondered why malt has fallen out of favor.

Maybe it’s Wikipedia’s fault.  Their definition is repulsive:  “Malted milk is a powdered gruel made from a mixture of malted barley, wheat flour, and evaporated whole milk. Malt powder comes in two forms: diastatic and nondiastatic. Diastatic malt contains enzymes that break down starch into sugar ; this is the form bakers add to bread dough to help the dough rise and create a certain crust.”

Powdered gruel?  Diastaic?  These words do not jibe with my sweet memories.  Malted milk is beer for children.

I liked everything about the glass Carnation jar as a child, and I liked everything about the ritual of milk making.

Treat related events in our household came in threes.  Perhaps it was a tribute to the Triune God of my parent’s church.  Maybe it had no meaning whatsoever.  All I know is that on snack night (it came once a week), we were allowed three cookies.  The exception to the rule happened when we got the giant marshmallow pinwheel cookies.  One was supposed to be three (maybe the cookie Buddha), so I had to learn to chew like a squirrel to get the same time value.  I believe Archway cookies were dolled out in twos, since they were expensive.

When we got to make chocolate milk, that meant Carnation Malted Milk, and we were allowed three spoonfuls. My ability to create giant mounds to get the most of my allowance of three was an engineering marvel.  Too bad, that was the last time in life and the only application of my engineering skill.  Though I stirred in the first two spoonfuls, I dipped the third, creating a pudding-like coating to the exterior which protected the dry chocolate malt beneath.  Between drinks I would take out the spoon, let it dry enough that the mound would open at the top like a volcano, eat the exterior, and re-dip.

So many layers of malted goodness were experienced.  Later in life when I had no adult supervision, the number of scoops I put in a glass of milk and the size of the glass expanded.  I bought a malt machine and scooped half bottles in with vanilla ice cream.  Ah, the wild abandon of affluence and adulthood.

Chocolate syrup was fine.  It was a great additive to the powder, but never a replacement for it.  Drinking Quik always left me with the feeling that something was missing.  The something missing?  Malt.

Is it gone for good?  Will it remain hidden on the lowest shelfs of third stores?  Will it find its way back into our culture?  Ugly minds want to know.

I can’t help but think that all of our squabbling couldn’t be silenced, at least a bit, over a cup of malted milk.  It’s impossible to be angry when drinking it.  Chocolate excites.  Malted chocolate soothes.