A few weeks ago, my wife and I were visiting Los Angeles and went out to breakfast with some friends. At home I usually just have cereal to start the day, but when traveling I like to have a big meal. So I ordered my usual road breakfast: French toast, bacon, and—I asked the server—could you bring me a glass of chocolate milk? My wife offered a patronizing chuckle. My friends tried to hide their discomfort. I could read their faces: They obviously thought they were out dining with Adam Sandler, a man-child who would follow his food order with fart sounds and toilet jokes.
But all I could think of was, what’s wrong with a 51-year-old man having chocolate milk with breakfast?
It’s not like it’s an unusual beverage to have with breakfast. I’ve seen people order Cokes to have with their hash browns. Others like a beer or a bloody mary to accompany their bacon. Nobody blinks twice: A Coke is just another form of caffeinated pick-me-up, and beers and bloody marys are the hair of the dog, the sign of a REAL adult. (A hard-drinking one, at that.)
But ask for a chocolate milk, and fellow grown-ups scoff like adolescents forced to share the playground with their younger siblings.
I can’t remember the first time I ordered a chocolate milk for breakfast in public, but I do remember the first time I noticed the reaction. The server seemed to smile with equal parts support and pity. (Though it was on the menu, I got the feeling it was rarely requested—especially by someone over seven.) My wife, who likes her breakfasts with heavy-duty black coffee, expressed surprise. Not that she was embarrassed, but chocolate milk? Really?
The kitchen must have felt the same way. The chocolate milk I received, served in a pilsner-style glass, still had thick traces of syrup at the bottom as if the preparer (The cook? The server?) couldn’t have been bothered to stir more than twice.
Still, I am not ashamed. I drink my chocolate milk proudly.
Why should I be? It’s not a childhood crutch. (That would be adding the chocolate milk to cereal, and don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.) If I order eggs, I’ll have juice (orange or cranberry). But juice just doesn’t taste as good with the maple syrup and eggy dough of a top-notch French toast. Chocolate milk, frankly, hits the spot.
Second, chocolate milk is actually damned good for you. A series of studies has indicated chocolate milk is one of the best recovery drinks after a workout—even better than a carbohydrate replacement drink, according to one bit of research. No wonder: it’s high in potassium, calcium, and vitamin D, along with plenty of protein and carbohydrates. And it tastes like chocolate.
Okay, in my case it’s not like I’m recovering from a workout any more strenuous than the walk from the parking lot to the diner. Still, it’s the thought that counts.
Finally, have I mentioned that it’s chocolate?
I love chocolate. I love chocolate bars, chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream, chocolate-chip cookies, chocolate mousse and chocolate-dipped Pocky sticks. Having chocolate milk with breakfast is like a small indulgence, since breakfast was, for years, the one meal at which I almost never had chocolate.
When I was a kid, my family made its chocolate milk with Nestle Quik, Bosco or Hershey’s syrup. (I’m now exclusively a Hershey’s man.) But it was not to be had with breakfast. Frankly, there was no time. Breakfast usually consisted of hurriedly eaten Rice Krispies or Sugar Pops. (Only as a teenager did I discover Carnation Breakfast Bars—what a friend later described as “Snickers bars with vitamins sprayed on.”) Chocolate milk was an after-school drink.
Years later, I’m an adult. I can have chocolate milk any time I want. But you have to pick your spots, and I prefer to have it with my favorite meal of the day—breakfast —ideally with French toast and bacon. Regardless of what the rest of the table thinks.
Now, if you’ll pardon me, I feel a fart coming on.