by Joel Haas
It was a Saturday.
My mother was out and my father was seeing to me—age four—and my baby brother.
I was going through a phase in which I would only eat Spam and fried sliced hot dogs. Wisely, my parents did not fight with me about my diet, and, so far as I can tell, it did not stunt my growth. They figured I would outgrow it soon enough and that I would be okay as long as I drank plenty of milk. Back then, before anybody worried about gluten allergies, fiber, too much fat, too much sugar or whatever, milk was the child’s elixir of good health. “Build strong bones! Drink more milk!” Advertising companies and the American Dairy Farmers’ Assoc. had seen to that.
We always drank a lot of milk. My Grandmother Haas declared from her experience (she had 3 sons) there was no ill in a small child’s life that could not be salved with copious quantities of chocolate milk.
So, it was with some consternation, my father noticed I had eaten all the fried hot dogs and Spam on my plate but left my glass of milk untouched.
“Drink your milk, son,” he urged. “Finish your milk and you can go to work.”
In imitation of my father, I “went to work.” Every day in a patch of dirt outside the back window. There, I used a toy bulldozer, a toy hammer and a little hard hat to dig shallow holes at random and then fill them back up.
(Yes, I know that describes your job today, but mine was pretend work and yours is, well…real work?)
Anyway, I could not be bribed with the prospect of work.
I sat truculent, and the glass of milk sat untouched.
“So,” my father asked, “do you want chocolate milk?”
“No!” I declared. This was not going to be as easy a victory as he thought.
“Well,” Dad started, “do you want goat milk?”
“Do you want tiger’s milk?”
“Do you want elephant’s milk?”
“Do you want plain milk?” Dad asked, pointing at the glass.
Frustrated, Dad grated out a play on words he was sure a four year old would not understand. “So, do you want air plane milk?”
I was curious. I remembered a trip to the airport and seeing the airplanes.
“Yes,” I said. “I want airplane milk.”
Experienced parent that he was becoming, Dad leaped for the chance.
“You stay right here,” he instructed. “I think we have airplane milk in the kitchen.”
In a few moments, Dad came back from the kitchen. In his hand, he held a glass of blue milk.
“I was just by the airport at work,” he said, “and they were milking the airplanes, so I bought some.”
He set the glass of blue milk in front of me.
“Try that” he said.
It was sweet, as if it had had several spoonfuls of sugar mixed in it, with a strong taste of vanilla and flecks of nutmeg. It was just as blue as when Mom added food color to cake icing.
It was delicious!
Who in their right minds would mess with cows after this??!!
I drank it all and demanded more.
Dad knew he had a winner and was determined to expand his advantage. While I sat at the table, Dad returned to the kitchen to mix up several more sample glasses of airplane milk. Different kinds of airplanes gave different kinds of milk, Dad explained. Jets gave blue milk, small planes gave yellow milk, while red milk came from the DC-3s Piedmont Air still flew then, and so on.
After that, whenever my father called home from work during the day, I would demand to speak with him. “Daaadyyy,” my reedy little voice would stretch out the word, “Don’t forget to go by the airport and get some air plane milk!”
As an adult, I have been in and out of a lot of airports and flown on a variety of airplanes.
But you can’t fool me. Every time I’m sitting in my seat waiting to take off and I see the big tanker trucks drive up under an airplane wing and hook up those long hoses….
I know what’s really going on!!!
All I have to say is--- if people quit flying, the cows had better watch out!
Recipe—to make Air Plane Milk
In an 8 ounce glass of cold milk, mix several spoonfuls of sugar. Add a teaspoon of vanilla or almond flavoring. Add a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg. Finally, add food coloring as appropriate.
Since my wife, Joy, is allergic to many artificial food colorings, I sometimes make her hot air plane milk on winter nights. Heat milk and then add sugar, vanilla and nutmeg to taste.
Serve in a mug while making airplane noises.