Forget shakshuka or a chopped salad, the ultimate Israeli breakfast is a tub of chocolate pudding with a side of olives. Salty-sweet perfection.
I made this discovery at the tender age of nine, on the first day of a two-week vacation at a Jerusalem hotel. The milk chocolate pudding slipped down my throat; it was dangerously easy to eat. At the time, it was an almost unbelievably naughty breakfast option — even more decadent than the sugary cereals my mom only permitted us to eat on Shabbat morning.
I didn’t know then that I’d tapped into an important cultural totem: Israelis don’t play around when it comes to chocolate pudding.
In the years that followed, I discovered many more varieties than the one at the hotel (the Dani: loses points for a slightly grainy texture). I’ve made a point to sample every one — Dany’s ungrainy competitor Carlo, the rather bland Joy, the sophisticated Yolo with its dark and white chocolate options. But none of them — despite their best efforts — beat Israel’s OG pud: Milky.
Topped with their signature vanilla whipped cream that perfectly balances the smooth, creamy chocolate gloop below, it’s easy to see how Milky has dominated the market for thirty years.
Still, the brand couldn’t resist the temptation to riff on the classic. A year after the chocolate pudding launched in 1979 came the vanilla version (repulsively sweet). Now there’s a strawberry version (interesting), as well as mocha (delightful), and chocolate puds with tiny chocolate shavings or M&M-type candies to mix in (fun). Indulging in their customer’s appetite for whipped cream, in 2014 Milky launched a duo pack with a whole tub of extra whip (genius).
Despite their success, aided by their celebrity-filled TV adverts, the past seven years have marked a downward turn for Milky.
When a similar (but larger) chocolate pudding sold in Germany for a third of the price was discovered, it became the emblem for a campaign that urged Israelis to seek cheaper living and join the growing number of expatriates in Berlin. This campaign, named Olim L’Berlin (Let’s Ascend to Berlin) or The Milky Protest/Revolution, was controversial, “I pity the Israelis who no longer remember the Holocaust and abandoned Israel for a pudding,” responded Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir.
Now that I actually live in Israel, chocolate puddings and olives are reserved for weekend breakfasts. Though the puddings are often marketed — with a hefty dose of chutzpa — as yogurts, they are definitely a treat. In fact, sales of the iconic Milky have taken a serious dip in the last four years, as Israelis become increasingly health conscious.
Still, it only takes a trip to the supermarket dairy aisle to see that Israel’s obsession with chocolate pudding is alive and well — outrageously overpriced or not.