For those of you in Spain, this needs no introduction.
For the rest of the world: Meet Spain’s breakfast of Champions, Cola Cao.
The ingredient list reads:
- cocoa powder
- wheat flour
- malt extracts
- added flavours
In other words, it is cheap chocolate milk with flour for filler. My father-in-law says, “It’s healthy! It’s cereal!”
There are three generations of Spaniards convinced that this is the perfect breakfast food. I have watched in utter horror as Rogelio’s aunt force-fed her grandson chocolate milk because “The damn kid refuses to eat anything healthy.” She is off the hook for babysitting my kids.
Spain has the worst childhood obesity rates in Europe and although they haven’t yet reached American levels, they are working hard to catch up. I have also seen mothers force feeding their children French pastries in the park.
Strange. My common sense suggests that if your kid isn’t interested in chocolate milk and pastries, he probably isn’t hungry. Call me crazy…
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate and am a choco-holic from way back. I am in no way qualified to judge people’s eating habits. But just like with alcoholics, there are levels. It is one thing to indulge in a few too many scotches after dinner. It is another thing to do it for breakfast and then expound the health benefits. A good single malt is arguably more cereal-like than chocolate milk and after watching a force feeding incident, infinitely more appealing.
My neighbour invited me to a lecture about childhood nutrition. I was assuming a discussion about vitamins, healthy recipes, meal planning etc. Youth nutrition in Spain means “how to train your kids to eat when they don’t want to”. The system suggested was to make them sit in front of the plate for ten minute intervals and then send them to their room for ten minute intervals until they “Drink the chocolate milk, damn it.”
Rogelio is one of the converted. He drinks warm milk with Cola Cao before work every day. He thinks that soon he and Yago will be doing morning male-bonding over their
chocolate milk breakfast of Champions.
“Come on Mom, let me have some Cola Cao. It’s just cereal!”