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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Chronicles of Creams

The Return of the Shake

I do enjoy a fine cream. Thus it so happened that on a mild Tuesday evening, returning from my day's duties, I perchanced to enter a McDonald's and get myself a milkshake.  I felt tired and dreary and wanted a treat, and can I be blamed?

As I walked inside, I was greeted by a poster heralding the arrival of something special, something mythic. Indeed, the Shamrock Shake had returned.

My heart rate accelerated to speeds unknown in these parts of the galaxy.  I was filled with a child-like happiness.  Thank god, it's back! But my moment of bliss was soon eradicated by a very sad fact:  the Shamrock Shake has greatly declined in quality in recent years.  In fact, "declined in quality" doesn't quite do the situation justice.  There has been a qualitative change - the Modern Shamrock Shake is not the one of antiquity, the Classic Shamrock Shake.

In recent years - sadly I cannot give a precise date - the whole operation has changed.  In the past - the Classical age - a McDonald's associate would approach the milkshake machine and press a special Shamrock Shake lever. There was a lever for vanilla, chocolate, perhaps strawberry, and one for Shamrock when in season.  In Modern times, an associate would approach the machine, press the vanilla lever, and then approach a bottle of Shamrock "syrup" and perform a few pumps.  There might be some attempt to mix this syrup with the vanilla shake, but it was usually a feeble one.

The resulting concoction was a travesty.  The syrup was a sickeningly artificial and intensely minty (but not in a good way) affair.  The "Shamrock Shake" now tasted like a Toothpaste Shake.  I'm sorry, toothpaste has its uses, but being in a milkshake is not one of them.

It is therefore with a heavy heart that I approached the counter.  I knew I had to get the Shamrock Shake, but I knew it would be a letdown.  As I waited my turn, I glanced at the image of the Shamrock Shake on the menu, and I noticed the topping of whipped cream and the cherry.  At first I didn't really think about it.  But then it occurred to me...

In more recent times - sadly I cannot give a precise date - McDonald's has introduced McCafe, its version of a mini-Starbucks.  This has entailed sweeping reforms, not the least of which has been the revamping of the McDonald's Milkshake.  Now, the shakes come in clear containers with whipped cream and a cherry.  It's an absolutely delightful innovation.

To return to the matter-at-hand, I began to wonder how McCafe would affect the Shamrock Shake.  Was it possible that the Classical Shamrock Shake would make a return? I can't exactly answer this question right now (more below), because I started daydreaming, perhaps about fried chicken, and I failed to notice if the associate used a syrup or if there was a dedicated Shamrock Shake mix in the machine.  However it was dispensed, my shake was brought before me, and it seemed to be a solid green color, although there were some swirls of heightened green intensity. However, this was promising, because as of late, when the syrup has been added and clumsily mixed, the shake has been mostly white.

Now, the moment of truth.  I took a sip.  Then another.  Then another.  It tasted - good?  I took another sip.  My heart began racing once more.  Was this the Shamrock Shake of my childhood?  A return to the Classical period?

Dear reader, I am not prepared this evening to state if the Shamrock Shake I ingested is as good as the shakes of yore.  It's definitely not strictly a Classic Shamrock, because those were served in paper cups without whipped cream and a cherry.  Indeed, the whipped cream and a cherry, by necessity, creates a third stage: The Post-Modern stage. Further taste tastes, as well as verifying if a syrup is being used, will reveal just what is going on here.  Yet there can be no question we have entered a brave new world for the Shamrock Shake, and for once in my life I am hopeful.