Thursday, April 19, 2012

Growing Up On Canned Milk Cocoa

My parents had very little money, but tried to make sure their children had sufficient nutrition to be healthy. Mother, a very intelligent woman, read government bulletins about what children should be fed. One very important item was milk for strong bones and teeth.

After her babies were weaned Mother introduced us to canned milk cocoa. Fresh milk was not as easily available as canned evaporated milk, and was more expensive. Her cocoa recipe was simple, kept us drinking milk, and, we thought, it was delicious. We would drink several glasses a day. It was our favorite snack and gave us fuel to keep going with our play or to refuel us after school. When I got tall enough to reach the sink faucets, I made my own cocoa whenever I needed a snack. I remember being teased about my cocoa "mustache" and the fact that my shirts often had cocoa marks on the shoulder where I wiped my mouth. (No, I don't still do that!) As an adult I've lost my taste for canned milk, with fresh milk so readily available. But I give a good deal of credit for my strong teeth and bones to Mama's canned milk cocoa!

Our parents bought the canned milk by the case. There were two brands available: Pet Milk and Carnation Milk. For some reason Mother favored Pet Milk, so I grew up thinking it superior to Carnation Evaporated Milk. I don't think there was really any difference, but a kid thinks whatever Mama chooses is the best.

Carnation Milk's label had a picture of a carnation on it. It was pretty, but I found the Pet Milk label absolutely fascinating. It showed a can of milk with a cow's face peeking out. And on the label of the can the cow was peeking out of, was another can with another cow peeking out! I was tickled when I found this old illustration on the Pet Milk website.

Illustration is from the Pet Milk website.
The recipe for our cocoa was easy: Put 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cocoa in a glass and stir the two together. Add a very small amount of hot water from the faucet and stir (this mixed the cocoa and sugar into a syrup so the cocoa didn't clump). Add 1/2 glass of hot water and fill to the top with canned evaporated milk.

When I had weaned my own first child at the age of 14 months, I discovered that she did not like cows' milk and refused to drink it. Mother's old cocoa recipe came to the rescue. She did like it.


  1. Yes, yummiest stuff ever! It makes me sad readinging this, and knowing I didn't pass this on to Megan. Now that she's a teen, I wonder if she'd like it. Hmmm, may have to let her sample some. If I ever have grandchildren, I will try to remember to give them some of their great-great Grandma Rose's cocoa!

  2. Mom used to give that to us as well. Somewhere along the way she must've been out of cocoa so we had it without and I loved it! It became my favorite and from then on, when she made cocoa milk, she made mine without the cocoa. Oddly, I still call it cocoa milk. Maria and Sam never developed a taste for it (and never got to try it with cocoa) but Ben did. In fact, he and I developed a little tradition of drinking cocoa milk while watching 7th Heaven on Monday nights. I miss Ben.