In my last post, I mentioned that I have never had Tang, even though I suspected it was one of those things that I already knew what it tasted like. I was challenged by some readers to put that notion to the test. So as I began thinking about instant drink mixes, I realized that I’ve never tried another famous instant drink mix: Ovaltine. This was going to be more than a taste test. It was going to be an extravaganza.
Yes, an extravaganza, because as I stood in line at the grocery store watching the two canisters of Ovaltine and Tang move down the conveyor belt, I wondered what would they taste like mixed together. The genius creative mind that I am, I realized this was a completely original and perhaps revolutionary idea. I invented the idea of OVALTANG in Shoppers Food Warehouse on June 7th, 2010.
I hope it tastes like a chocolate orange because those things are delicious.
First, let me put everything in some context. You may be wondering how it’s possible that I’ve never tasted Tang or Ovaltine in my life. Both are iconic and deeply rooted in the cultural imagination of America. Secret decoder rings unveiled messages about the goodness of Ovaltine to radio-listening children during World War II. The astronauts drank Tang in missions to the moon. Of course, both of these are more myth than fact—no such message of “be sure to drink your Ovaltine” was ever transmitted across airwaves, but was immortalized in A Christmas Story. And the astronauts didn’t actually drink Tang—they drank generic orange aid.
Yet, knowing it’s a myth somehow makes it better. Our great country is built on incredible stories of cherry trees and Paul Bunyans, as well as fantastic legends of Tang and Ovaltine. Simply put: as an American, I’m obligated to drink these powdered instant-drink mixes. It’s a patriotic act, like baking American flag cakes and buying American flag underwear.
My guess is that many people my age have never had Ovaltine. Ovaltine was one of those old-timey and weird things, like the slip covers on my grandmother’s couch, or the ornately-carved birdhouses on display in her basement. I imagined Ovaltine to taste like saw dust and cocoa.
Then there’s Tang, invented in 1957. While not as ancient, Tang seemed suspiciously educational with all that stuff about the astronauts. If my fourth-grade science teacher was excited to talk about Tang, then maybe I’d rather not. Tang also didn’t have thousands of commercials to brainwash me during Saturday morning cartoons like Kool Aid did. Tang came in boring flavors like orange–not fun flavors like Sharkleberry Fin and Purplesaurus Rex. Tang may have had American heroes like Aldrin and Armstrong behind it, but Kool Aid had an anthropomorphic pitcher stupidly bursting through brick walls. I was sold.
Now, the reviews. Let’s examine the Tang first.
I had boasted that I already knew what Tang tasted like, without ever having it. I was wrong. Tang is nothing like I imagined. I thought it was going to be a much weaker flavor. But I swirled the mix into the water, and I could see a bright orange color emerging. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Tang is, well, tangy. I liked it. It’s refreshing and relaxing. I can actually see myself fixing a glass of this regularly.
Tang. I like the word. I want to buy a hermit crab and name it that. Tang. I want some astronaut ice cream, too. Tang. I want the t-shirt.
Next was Ovaltine.
Now, by the time the 1980s rolled around, Ovaltine did manage to throw together a few low-budget television commercials and advertise to my generation. The ad featured polite-looking children who proclaimed Nesquik “out,” while their mother touted the nutritional benefits of the Ovaltine. At the end, the children, their hair parted down the center, quaintly asked for “more Ovaltine, please!”
Who were these children, and what century were they from? I was not like them. I was sweaty and grubby, and when I wanted something, I demanded it. I WANT MORE PIZZA ROLLS. NOW!
Interestingly, Ovaltine is now owned by Nestle, who makes Nesquik. So maybe I could become a fan of Ovaltine. Hey, I like chocolate milk. I unscrewed the cap and peered in.
It did remind me a bit of saw dust. I was hoping it would be like the fine angelic powder from the Swiss Miss packets of instant cocoa, but Ovaltine is gritty and brown.
I mixed myself a glass.
I downed it. Yes, it tasted like chocolate milk, but it lacked the richness of Hershey’s Syrup. I think this has potential to make good hot chocolate, but overall, I wasn’t crazy about it. In other words, I have no desire to run out and buy a hamster and name him Ovaltine. And anyway, I was eager to move onto my brainchild…OVALTANG.
Now, the experiment:
They mixed surprisingly well together. I expected a murky concoction, but I was pleased to discover an effervescent orange almost marbleizing with the deep chocolate color. It was damn near pretty if you ask me, a perfect blending of mother and father. The smell wasn’t bad either. It did smell like orange-flavored chocolate. And the taste? Not terrible. The dominant flavor was the chocolate, but the essence of the orange was in there, too. For minute, I considered running out to buy a guinea pig, and naming him Ovaltang.
And that would have been the final note of my post–except twenty minutes later, my stomach became very unhappy. It wasn’t the actual Ovaltang that I sipped that made me sick. No, it was the quart of OVALTANG that was already sloshing around in my stomach. I had downed the Tang and Ovaltine one after another for this post. Drinking a glass of warm Tang, followed by a glass of cold milky Ovaltine, created a frothy mixture to digest. I think it’s possible the dairy and citrus mixture curdled in my guts. Four antacids later, there’s a feeling of fullness that just won’t leave.
I’ve decided to name the guinea pig Rolaid.