Wednesday, April 5, 2006

The Saga of the Valomilk: Episode Three of Five

The Challenge

The problem with Valomilks is that they have a tendency to pop their tops or leak. So even when you get one as fresh as possible, close to the source, there’s still a chance that they’ve got a little oozing spot. It doesn’t really affect the flavor, just the messiness factor. It’s hard to keep from getting sticky if the cup is already leaking when you bite into it. When I got to my sister’s we each had a package. Of the six cups, three were already oozing, though they had healed themselves. (It’s like they’re filled with a tasty Fix-a-Flat caulk!)

On my long drive back to Pittsburgh from my sister’s in Mechanicsburg, I formulated a plan for getting as many of the Valomilks back to Los Angeles intact, as well as trying as many different ways to fly with them as an experiment. First, I had to figure out what the weakness of the Valomilk was so that I could best combat any disintegration during my continuing journey. My best guess was that flying caused the cups to rupture because of the change in air pressure. How this precisely works is beyond me.

The Analysis

As a structural material, chocolate is probably not the best choice. Sure, in large bars it’s pretty strong but the load bearing members on the side of the candy cup is hardly enough to hold back the considerable pressure of the super-tall cup. Further, the paper of the candy cup provides only the flimsiest of shear wall support, thought the fluting does give greater structural integrity than one might expect.

The weak point of the candy cup is where the sides of the chocolate join its chocolate top.

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Any small fissure in the shell will result in the leaking of the vanilla center. It seems rather odd that the viscous filling would want to escape, and further that it would do it at the top of the candy cup and not at the bottom. I have several theories about this:

The first is that the chocolate top creates pressure on the vanilla filling pushing it out wherever it will go, obviously finding the weak spot at the top of the sides the easiest. In most cases the leak seals itself as the vanilla milk meets the air and solidifies (also gluing the paper cup to the candy). This likely releases some pressure and does not recur.

The second theory is that there is an electro-magnetic charge associated with the vanilla filling. This theory is best illustrated by looking at a cross section of the planet Earth. Though the Valomilk has no solid iron core rotating to create the magnetic poles as we know it, I have surmised that there is a static charge associated with the filling in the cups and that further currents that develop once the vacuum of the cup is achieved with the addition of the clingy chocolate topper. So there are these ebbing and flowing currents, flinging off electrons willy-nilly, creating this negative charge. Then you look at the chocolate cup, which is made of a micro-crystalline matrix of cocoa butter which gives chocolate its yielding solidity. The solid parts are positively charged, but the semi-solids may vary in charge. The hull integrity is apparently at odds with the electromagnetic charge of the plasmatic filling. The polarity of the hull and the variable charge of the static flowing center enhances the micro-fractures in the shell, time being a major factor here.

Or maybe banging them around cracks them.

Whatever the cause, the Valomilk is delicate and prone to leaking from a variety of causes. The Valomilk is known to do poorly when frozen and at high altitudes. This presented some challenges when it came to transporting this box of candies back to Los Angeles.

The Plan

So I decided to sacrifice some of my flowing marshmallow babies in an effort to determine the best way to travel with Valomilks.

First, the experiment: Is freezing actually bad for Valomilks? Technically, no. It’s not the freezing that seems to do the damage, it’s the thawing. I put a reasonably pristine single cup in the freezer overnight at my brother’s and lo and behold, the next morning it was just fine. No leakage, no splitting of the cup. However, upon thawing (just putting it out at room temperature for several hours) it lost hull integrity and started seeping at one of the seams. The good news is that the taste and texture of the candy is unchanged.

I conducted this bit of candy cup cruelty because one of the ideas was to put the Valomilks in my suitcase that would be checked. Now, I’m not certain if the temperature in a USAirways jet hold gets below freezing, but on a cross-continental flight it’s certainly in there for a while. The other issue with checked luggage is I have no clue what they’re going to do with it. It could get dropped, smashed and of course the hold may not be pressurized as well as the passenger cabins. (I know they pressurize the cargo hold, but I’m not sure if it’s done to the same levels as the passenger compartments.)

The other plan for protecting the candy cups was enclosing them in an air-tight, container. I was already traveling with a plastic Tupperware-type container that held my candy for review (the on deck candies that I’d photographed). I could certainly put at least six of them in there, and plan to carry them in my computer bag that would be stowed in the overhead compartment. But I wanted more protection than simply a plastic box.

image

The first thing that came to mind was a thermos. But how was I going to find a thermos with a neck big enough to put a candy bar into it? A soup thermos seemed to be the best solution, so off to Target we went searching for a small thermos to hold as many Valomilks as possible. I found a very nice one with a stainless steel compartment and a double seal. It was also pretty compact which meant that only three Valomilk packages would be flying in these tony accommodations.

Now, I have to admit that I had some trepidation about trying to take my hermetically sealed goodies on a plane because of the security concerns. I’ve had to explain what’s in my luggage before, but I wasn’t sure how I would explain why I was carrying a dozen candy bars in my carry-on and further, why three of them were in a stainless steel cylinder.

Of course all of my worries and anxiety was for nothing. No one at the Pittsburgh Airport cared much about my thermos ... they just wanted me to take off my shoes.

Tomorrow’s episode: Arrival in Los Angeles

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:22 pm Tracker Pixel for Entry     ValomilkFun StuffNews

Comments
  1. I wasn’t meaning to belittle your reviewing skills…this is a great read.  However, the taste of the candy itself is the meat of the review.  I think that you’re loading up for a let-down.  Even giving the Valomilk a Spinal Tap 11 would almost be the baseline for the length of this review, but I just don’t think they’re that good.  Everyone has their own favorites, and I’m anxious to see how you enjoyed Valomilk.

    Comment by Dave on 4/06/06 at 12:40 am #
  2. The part about the electromagnetic charge made me laugh and cringe (memories of college Physics class) all at the same time.

    Comment by g on 4/06/06 at 2:17 am #
  3. In his formative years Frank Lloyd Wright experimented with the structural integrities of chocolate and came to pretty much the same conclusions as to its insufficient load-bearing properties. And indeed, you were oh so right to be concerned about your air transportation method—especially in a stainless steel container. One jiggle of the appropriate magnitude is all it would take to free an electron through a fissure in the comprimised chocolate to willy and nilly off the Thermos core with ever increasing velocity until… my gawd I don’t even want to think of what could have happened.

    I am so LOVING this post because it captures your fine ability as a reviewer and pairs it with your obvious talent as a writer: two great tastes that taste great together! Plus now I’m hugely jonesing for a Valomilk.

    Comment by Will Campbell on 4/06/06 at 4:57 am #
  4. I laughed out loud at your second theory and had to explain myself to my officemate… But I now imagine a whole fleet of “Valomilk Scientists” conducting research and posting results online, just like the peeps fanatics…  I’m with Will: I’m loving this. I don’t even care if the final result is a 2.

    Comment by Tricia on 4/06/06 at 7:22 am #
  5. We already know that it’s a 10.  Look at the front page.

    Comment by Dave on 4/06/06 at 1:41 pm #
  6. Cybele's avatar

    g, Will & Tricia - thanks for the appreciation! I’m having a blast playing with my food!

    Will - come on by and pick some up ... there are still at least eight of them lying around.

    Dave - actually, the programming of this site is such that nothing gets on the main page without a rating. Anything without a rating is relegated to the “news” page. So the only way I could properly announce and create the “stickied” announcement with the links to all five parts was to give it a rating. And I thought the series of posts was good enough to warrant a 10 out of 10.

    Comment by Cybele on 4/06/06 at 1:49 pm #
  7. I can’t help but think these things should be DOME shaped, kinda like a chocolate covered cherry.

    I want to try one…really bad!

    Comment by fightin mad mary on 4/07/06 at 8:11 am #

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