Recalling childhood’s tastes and smells

calf with bottle

If you’ve never experienced the strong association between taste and smell, I have just the thing to prove it to you. This experience will only surely connect, though, if you’ve ever been a farm kid who had to feed calves.

Recently, I decided to try what was promoted as a healthy drink to boost protein intake, giving a person more energy to burn through that never-ending chore list in a hurry.

After stirring up this powdered drink with enthusiasm, I took a big sip. I feel certain that my eyes rolled around in my head like a cartoon character, while my feet turned into rotors, propelling me to the sink to wash it away with gloriously tasteless water.

The drink tasted exactly like the milk replacer I stirred up for the calves when I was a kid. Calf Lac, the cream-colored powder that came in a big bag, had a very distinctive aroma, and I guarantee you, this drink tasted just like Calf Lac smelled.

No, thank you.

I remember that each Calf Lac bag came with a colored rubbery plastic cup to use for measuring. When each bag was emptied, we took the cup to the house. Those became our Kool-Aid sipping cups, and we had them in various colors, a bonus for a houseful of kids.

There were times, I promise you, I could still smell that distinctive aroma of Calf Lac while sipping from one of those cups. The drink menu for us when I was a kid was either milk, water or the brightly colored, highly-sugared, fake fruit juice that every kid lived on throughout the 1960s and 70s.

And so, I remember feeling mighty inventive when I opted to use an empty glass pop bottle, slowly pouring my Kool-Aid into it. Magically, it tasted unbelievably great. Though my sisters tried to talk sense into me, I suddenly saw myself as a cool kid, and that the entire world would soon be following my lead. No more Calf Lac cups for me!

Because Kool-Aid was so cheap it was practically free, no one squashed my spirited drinking. As long as I didn’t make a mess, I could stir up another pitcher of the stuff.

I can put myself right back in that kitchen, pulling open the small drawer and flipping through those little card-sized packets. Red Kool-Aid was the best. Whether it was strawberry, cherry or black cherry it didn’t matter, they all tasted red.

What I hadn’t bargained for is that my stomach was used to one Calf Lac cup-sized serving. I drank from that pop bottle like a drunken sailor suddenly stuck in a dry, hot desert.

That red Kool-Aid demanded a sudden repeat performance, without the bottle, right off the side porch railing. No one felt a bit sorry for me.

I’m old now, and a little wiser. I’ve sworn off Kool-Aid and any old thing that smells even remotely like Calf Lac for all time. Who’s with me?


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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