I'm supposed to be writing a 2000 word story entitled "The Other Me", in Chinese, for a class I haven't been going to but I went to the kitchen and fixed myself a mug of hot Milo instead.
I don't know why, I mean, I've basically sworn off chocolate and drinks with calories for the past couple of years so i shouldn't even have a tin of that stuff to begin with, but when my brother went back to KL one or two months ago and asked me what i wanted, that-along with dried guavas and curry pastes was what came into my mind.
For a large part of my life, I was under the impression that Milo was a Malaysian brand and therefore took pride in consuming that which I assumed was "buatan malaysia". You have to admit, the way messages are delivered by the media and advertisers- the Milo billboards with our national athletes, tv commercials with happy Malay kids drinking the calcium enriched stuff after playing sports, the constant appearance of the Milo logo with the Jalur Gemilang and Malaysia Boleh slogans, the color green itself being a very Malay color, any 6 year old with little awareness to marketing campaigns would have been misled.
You can't get Milo in Beijing the way you get it in KL, I've only seen Milo that comes out of Nestle dispensers once or twice.
Malaysians are creative with Milo. Milo drinks, Milo ice cream, Milo candies, Milo cereal, Milo this, Milo that. I even used to secretly eat the Milo powder straight from the tin-which I then thought was gross but eventually learned that just about everyone else had “secretly” done the same at some point of their lives.
They used to distribute small cups of machine made cold Milo during sports days when I was little and once in high school. Those were the best kind, the sweetness and milk were just right and I remember all the kids would have to squish in line at a Milo truck to get them.
I didn’t used to like homemade hot Milo and used to wonder why the Milo I made at home never tasted as good as the ones they had at mamak stalls and the "Mee-Looh Beng" at the canteen until I figured out that they used evaporated milk and other ultra fattening ingredients whose nutritional contents I didn’t used to care about.
I’m trying to remember the last cup of Milo I’ve had in Malaysia, I think it was with my dad one morning the last time I was home, when we were waiting for my visa at the mamak stall outside the immigration office-or was it a teh tarik?- I can’t quite remember.
It’s funny how thinking about Milo itself is nostalgic for me and yet it’s not quite the taste that triggers it. I think it’s one of those things that has been in the background all your life, that you never really have to pause to think about because it’s just there: the commercials with the swimmers, the logo appearing at sponsored events, the “Milo Ais” wording on the stained, laminated menus… The logo alone can be associated with thoughts of childhood, family, warmth, good for you etc. I mean, come on, THAT is what you call 58 years of successful branding.
Random facts from the Milo website:
-MILO® Tonic Food Drink was introduced in Malaysia as a Tonic Food Drink in the year 1950.
-Malaysia can be rightfully called ‘Land of MILO®’ because it is the world’s largest consumer of the beverage.
-Malaysians drink more MILO® than any soft drink and Malaysia has the largest MILO® factory in the world located at Chembong, Negeri Sembilan.
Rock on Milo, rock on...