(Originally posted Mar. 17, 2011)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! It’s time to honor the life of good Saint Patrick, as well as the contributions of Irish folk around the world. Of course, even on such a noble holiday, we can choose some pretty poor ways to celebrate. Traditionally, many people will use St. Patrick’s Day as an excuse to imbibe in dangerous amounts of rather unhealthy drink. I am referring, of course, to the Shamrock Shake.

When I was a kid, we did not eat a lot of fast food. But, just before St. Patrick’s Day, we would usually visit the McDonald’s for some of those famous green milkshakes. Now, I know most people tend to romanticize their childhood and claim that everything was better back when they were young (it’s a right of passage into old age) but I am certain that the Mc Donald’s milkshakes of old had the advantage over the shakes they serve today. For one thing, they were actually made from “real” ice cream, or at least the same ice cream they used in the soft-serve machines. I know this because the drinks were not thoroughly blended. Every once in a while, you would encounter a lump of vanilla ice cream that did not get stirred into the mix. Sometimes, you’d hit the bottom of the cup and discover some flavored syrup that escaped absorption into the concoction. So, they were a bit hastily made, but they still fell well within my definition of “milkshake.”

Recently, my friends and I decided to try some of the new Shamrock Shakes “for old time sake.” It starts with a dab of whipped cream on top, which looks pretty good, until you realize that the whipped cream is only there to disguise the consistency of the shake. See, real milkshakes have a little texture from bits of ice and ice cream. The Shamrock Shake is an eerily homogenous chemistry experiment. It’s kind of thick like a milkshake, but while milkshakes are thick because they are partly frozen, the Shamrock Shake has some sort of artificial congealing agent in it so it stays thick even at room temperature, kind of like a non-dairy coffee creamer. (Pause and imagine drinking a glass of room temperature non-dairy coffee creamer.) But at least it has a strong flavor, right? Back when I was a kid, I remember people complaining that the mint flavor of the Shamrock Shake wasn’t strong enough. McDonald’s has responded by making the new shakes from Scope mouthwash. Customer feedback does make a difference, folks.

If any of you readers wish to treat your kids to green treats for St. Patrick’s Day, I recommend buying mint or pistachio ice cream from the grocery store, ice cream parlor, or any other place that isn’t a McDonald’s. Sure, they may have started the green milkshake tradition, but they have abused it for far too long and it’s time we took it away from them.

And for the record, I have no complaints about Irish shortbread or soda bread. Eat all of that stuff that you want.

-Marj