Condensed Greed

8 Mar

A random rummage in the refrigerator can be very rewarding.

Stumbling upon an unfinished can of Nestlé Milkmaid, for instance, means you can beat your children to it and be reminded of your childhood at the same time. And that’s what happened, the other day…

My brother and I grew up in Calcutta, often on Milkmaid, the can that was always there always there in case the milk supply failed or the milk itself turned sour (not an uncommon thing in those days). For our mother, it was the quick-fix substitute to making tea. Expensive, but efficient, provided you could get through the sealed can.

I have vivid memories of holding the can with my frail fingers while either parent would pull out a rusty can-opener and try to pierce the first tiny hole so that the hook of the opener could get a grip and start cutting the lid open. Sometimes, a hammer or the mortar (of the pestle jodi) would be called in as reinforcement and the tiresome process of opening the equally rusty can would begin. The opener would slip, a finger would be cut, Dettol would be applied quickly and we would resume the operation: what lay within was way too delicious to be abandoned because the worst part of the product was its packaging.

Nestlé MilkmaidOnce opened, the brother and I would stand aside and salivate. A teaspoon would go into the tea being boiled after which it was our turn to dig into the sticky, sweet condensed manna-like milk. Those were days when we didn’t have a refrigerator and the can was too expensive to be finished in one go; so, it would be stored away in the hope that red ants wouldn’t discover it and that it wouldn’t spoil. On many occasions, both have happened but usually a plate with water on which the can would be perched, sufficed.

Puritans will swear that the best way to enjoy Milkmaid is to let a tablespoon glide down your gullet with nothing else accompanying it. However, I had some other concoctions that made it even more irresistible:

  • A slice of fresh bread with Milkmaid smeared on every millimetre. Or, on Thin Arrowroot biscuits.
  • And then with Bournvita sprinkled on it to give it a chocolaty-crunchy topping.
  • Pieces of Cadbury Dairy Milk (the only chocolate available then) dipped into the can and slurped while a trickle of condensed milk threatened to slip away down your shirt.
  • Grapes or almonds dipped into it.

And once these were done, licking the can empty with the fingers being applied to good use made for the most satisfying spells on an otherwise boring day watching the pelting rain from our verandah.

All of this is still very doable. And thanks to Nestlé making the can easier to open with a tab, accessing the condensed milk is so much easier. Storing it still requires an improvised cover but if you’re as greedy as the kids and I can be, you won’t have much left to store.

Now, to try it with a dash of coffee and bitter chocolate…slurrp!


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