Lookin For Malts In All The Wrong Places

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published July 14, 2014 in the Albert Lea Tribunechocolate malt photo: Ruby's Diner Fries Basket and Malt tumblr_lgk9xpsDvf1qzgqhio1_500.jpg I was looking for malts in all the wrong spaces. Looking for malts in too many places. Searchin’ the menu looking for flavors, of what I’m craving for, Hopin’ to find a chocolate or vanilla, I’ll rejoice when they say, “We have one today.”  I found myself singing those words one morning to the tune of the song “Looking For Love” sung by Johnny Lee in the ’80s. I am on a campaign to bring back malted milk ice cream to places everywhere. I hadn’t realized the malted milk was lost until I tried to find one. It took my granddaughter to open my eyes to the fact that another tradition was lost to the young people of America today. At the ripe old age of 11, she didn’t know what a malt was. One afternoon my granddaughter and I were checking out some stores in a big city. I had a craving for a chocolate malt. I decided to take her to an ice cream store that has real ice cream. Surely, they would have a chocolate malt. I scanned the menu on the wall. The store had smoothies, ice cream and shakes. Nowhere was the word malt. I settled for a chocolate shake, and although it was good, it was not a chocolate malt. On our way out of the store I mentioned my disappointment. My granddaughter replied that I had just had a malt. I explained that I had a shake, not a malt. She didn’t understand. I had to explain to her that chocolate malts had a distinct yummy flavor from malt that was mixed with the ice cream, and they were creamier than a shake. Since that day I have been checking out the usual haunts where people go for ice cream or yogurt. Smoothies, Blizzards and shakes are always on the menu. Malts are rare. For those of you, like my granddaughter, who do not know the difference between a malt and a shake the Wise Geek from Wisegeek.org explains it this way: “A milkshake consists of milk and ice cream blended to a dense, creamy consistency. Malted milk powder is added to the ice cream when blended. Malted milk powder is made by combining malted barley with whole milk and wheat flour, which is then dried. Flavored syrup such as chocolate can be added to the ice cream mixture before blending.” A milk shake is milk and ice cream blended to a creamy consistency and flavorings are added to it. I do know of one restaurant in the area that has yummy malts. Once a year a church in my community also has a ’50s night and it also serves the real malts. The drugstore in my community still has the soda fountain where you can get the malts and sodas. I do feel malted milks are becoming harder to find at the popular advertised places we frequent with our kids and grandkids when we want a treat as we are out and about for the day. During the 1950s and ’60s, malts along with ice cream sodas were easy to find. In my youth I also loved chocolate sodas. I was lucky because my dad’s shoe store was next to a drugstore that had a soda fountain. Malts and sodas were the treat of the day. At that time my community had two drugstores and two soda fountains. Not only could we get a malt at the drugstores, we could get a malt at the restaurants and the drive-ins in any community. It was the norm to have a burger and malt. I think Trumbles in Albert Lea may still offer the burger and malt on their menu. Ask anyone 60 or older, and I am sure they have stories about malt shops. I actually worked in Hanson Drug Store that had been next to my father’s store in my early 20s. Yes, I was a soda jerk, heavy on the word soda and not jerk. I learned how to make those creamy malts the right way. There was also this contraption called the whirliwhip machine that made an ice cream cone that resembled the twist cones that you can still get at fast food places. The whirliwhips were made out of two scoops of real ice cream that you put in the top of the machine. Chocolate syrup was drizzled over the scoops of ice cream. The handle was pulled down and the machine mixed and dispensed the mixture into a cone. As the creamy mixture was coming out of the machine we had to hold the cone with our hand and hand twist the concoction into the cone as it came out of the machine. You had to have the right touch on the handle to dispense the ice cream at the right speed. There was a difference in taste from the fast food places. All of us who worked at that soda fountain moaned and groaned when someone ordered a whirliwhip. We prayed for the machine to break down. It was an art to get the consistency right so it wasn’t soupy and would twist. It was messy and a job to clean up the machine but customers loved the whirliwhip. I may be wrong about the demise of the malt. However, I did some Googling and other people are having the same problem finding malts in shops. I now have made it my mission to make sure my grandchildren know what a malt tastes like. Of course, if they have to know what a malt tastes like, I am going to have to have a malt in each place that I take them to. I have to make sure the malt is up to snuff. It is a hard job to be a malt taster, but someone must make the sacrifice so that the tradition of the chocolate malt lives on.

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