…Helps the Medicine Go Down…

Way back in time, when my salad days were but a Cos seedling twinkle in my mother’s limpid eye, she, in the absence of any manner of vitamin supplement outside of Bird’s Eye frozen spinach, spoon fed me Malt Extract in order that I should grow big, strong and healthy.  For those of you unfamiliar with it – anybody under sixty years of age – perhaps I should describe it to you.  Imagine carefully removing the chocolate layer from something like a hundred weight of Malteasers before, in the parlance of Masterchef, reducing the brown crumbly bit down to something with the colour of molasses, the consistency of bitumen and the volume of a small egg cup, and there you have what was thrust down my throat every Sunday evening in the years that filled the interim between romper suit and chalk-stripe bellbottom trousers.  I was lucky mind you, many of my friends were forced to imbibe Malt & Cod Liver Oil in its place.  Whether we could not afford the fishy additive or whether my mother knew that thus conjoined, she would have no chance whatsoever of getting the stuff down my throat, we shall never know, but, for whatever the reason, I was always offered my germinated barley juice without the added fish innards.

These, of course, were the days of Horlicks, Ovaltine, Bournvita and Milo: all malty drinks made with hot milk and designed to help the progress of the average hyper active tot into sleep.  I remember that you could also buy Horlicks Tablets, although what they were intended to achieve I am really not sure.  According to our friend the internet, malt extract ‘improves digestive health’ and ‘stimulates better mood’, especially when consumed in beer.  Anybody who has ever toyed with a homebrew beer kit will recognise the brown gunk in the tin as malt extract.  It is similar, in this form, to superglue, in that it finds its way onto every surface with which it has had no primary contact and from which it steadfastly refuses to be washed.  Home brewers will be fully familiar with the sensation of not being able to let go of the spoon.  It also has, I am told, fifty times the antioxidants of fresh broccoli.  I do not know what antioxidants are, but if these are the only sources, I’m happy to live without them.

A further consultation with Dr Internet tells me that cod liver oil is beneficial for heart, brain, mood, bones and in the treatment of arthritis – although quite detrimental, I assume, to the lifespan of the cod.  It would appear that combined, there is little that these two viscous goos cannot treat.  With such vastly enhanced mood, heart, memory and skeletons, it is a wonder to me that so many of my contemporaries died so young.  I presume that without it, they would not have made it beyond nylon ‘Y’ fronts and winceyette pyjamas.

So I have, of course, checked whether malt extract is still available and, it would appear, I have missed seeing it staring out at me from the shelves of every supermarket I have ever visited over the last forty years.  The stuff is everywhere and is, I am assured, perfect for spreading on bread or toast, or as a substitute for sugar in most baking recipes.  You can also make beer with it.  Malt extract and cod liver oil is also widely available – although this mutation seems to be found mostly in Health Food outlets, meaning that it is approximately ten times the price of either of its constituent parts – and is, I presume, less suitable for spreading on toast or bread and, probably, not so useful as a sugar substitute in baking – unless, presumably, you are making fish cakes.

Tempted as I am by the health benefits, I will not return to the weekly spoonful of yesteryear.  I will, instead, check how many pints of beer I have to consume in order to receive similar benefit.  In no time at all I will be as fit as a flea – especially when I replace the Horlicks tablets with Malteasers.  As for the cod liver oil, well, it is possible, I presume, to be too healthy – and nobody wants that at my age…


23 thoughts on “…Helps the Medicine Go Down…

  1. Cod liver oil…eryuk…yes I remember but I must have been a very strange child. It was given to us in capsules so you didn’t have to taste it, (unless it came up when rejected by the stomach which I seem to recall). But I also remember biting those little capsules so the oil squirted into my mouth. I did say I was strange. Horlicks was lovely…at least I thought so when I last had it nearly 60 years ago. Milo is now my daily treat but whether it helps me or not no longer really matters. We should have a bit of what pleases us.

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  2. I wonder who discovered Cod Liver Oil? Some guys out on a fishing boat, “Hey, Louie, make sure you save those cod livers! They’re good for ya!” I have always liked the flavor of malt, especially malted milk.

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  3. I don’t think I’ve ever had cod’s liver oil, but I recall some vitamin pills in orange or blackcurrant sweet coating. As for Malteasers I hate the taste, as it reminds me of the time I went to live with my older sister and ate it in spoonfuls due to being so hungry (unhappy memories that the adult in me now, hugs the child that I was).

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      1. I recall some sort of lard, no wait it was called dripping and it was sort of like weird butter / bovril with salt. Strange how shared ideas bring forth such tangible memories.

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      2. Dripping is beef fat and lard pig. The brown layer underneath was meaty jelly stuff 🤢. Dripping + jelly + bread = ‘mucky bread’, a working class staple around here. My parents used lard because it was even cheaper…


      3. Our tubes!!!! How our tubes must have craved a more healthy input. Needs must. I have questioned my negative thoughts about it all and realised how it was all a matter of love and “Needs must”.

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      1. I put my hands up, I have fried a salad 🥗 admittedly it was a salad bag and I stir fried the mix, then added strong flavours while it was still hot via Reggae Reggae Sauce, some soy sauce and then sprinkled in some vegan bacon flavoured Rochelle Salad Sprinkles. It all goes into a wrap and reminds me of being on a protest, parked up in the early hours.

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