Monday, March 9, 2015

It's Shamrock Shake season!


(RE-POST FROM 2011)

During my study abroad trip to Ireland in 2001, I ate a lot of Big Macs.

I was too poor, stupid and homesick to expand my culinary horizons, so I stuck with what I knew:  McDonald’s (which is an Irish name, at least).

The food at the Emerald Isle Mickey D’s actually tasted better than the garbage they serve stateside, but I was still disappointed. Shamrock Shakes weren’t on the menu! Granted, it was the middle of May, but I assumed the minty dessert was regarded as a national beverage, right up there with Guinness stout and Jameson whiskey.

When I inquired about the shake, the redheaded cashier rolled her non-smiling eyes.

“That’s an American thing,” she said with an adorable accent muddled by disgust. (This was a few months before the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, when Europeans openly hated the United States … more so).

I guess I had no reason to complain. Half of all the McDonald’s in the Western Hemisphere don’t bother to run the St. Patty’s Day promotion. They take comedian Mitch Hedberg’s approach to food service:

“All McDonald’s commercials end the same way: ‘Prices and participation may vary.’ I want to open my own McDonald’s and not participate in anything. I want to be a stubborn McDonald’s owner. ‘Cheeseburgers? Nope. We got spaghetti. And blankets.’”

But, this year, for the first time since the Shamrock Shake’s introduction in 1970, all 14,000 U.S. locations will serve the leprechaun sludge through March 25th! On one hand, I’m happy because the green elixir is finally getting the recognition it deserves. On the other, searching for it is part of the fun.

In years past, I’ve gone miles out of my way to find the elusive ooze.  It was thrilling to spot a small, typo-riddled sign alerting me to this limited-time offer. For some reason, restaurant managers who were motivated enough to pour mint syrup into the vanilla shake machine didn’t advertise their accomplishment very well. Meanwhile, when the McRib makes its semi-annual return, McDonald’s celebrates like it’s the second coming of Christ!

On Sunday morning, Sarah and I stopped by Ronald’s Love Handle Emporium to suck up our first shake of the season.

It was heavenly … until I read the nutritional information and, suddenly, this little breakfast excursion took a detour straight to Hell. A medium-sized shake has 550 calories, 13 grams of fat, 95 carbs and 50 milligrams of cholesterol! As I slurped, I pictured my arteries – clogged like a tube slide filled with impatient toddlers. I’m sure the new whipped cream-and-cherry-topping bumps the caloric intake up to 666.

Despite its bad-for-you-status, EVERYONE in the restaurant was sucking down a Shamrock Shake. I’ve never seen such a blatant disregard for the human body (at least not outside of Las Vegas).

I felt a patriotic connection to my fellow Americans. Then I felt extreme guilt.

Ingesting neon-green death goo isn’t smart for someone who has to squeeze her fat ass into a bathing suit in less than three months. Of course, by then, I’ll probably be drinking frosty, rum-spiked cocktails poolside and won’t give a shit about my health anymore.  Sorry, liver.

Actually, a Shamrock Shake would taste even better with a shot of whiskey in it! Alcoholic milkshakes are the hip, new thing in Pittsburgh … which means they were popular everywhere else in the country a decade ago. It makes sense. If I’m gonna drink a lethal beverage, I might as well get drunk in the process.

Maybe McDonald’s will feel pressured to keep up with gastropubs and start serving alcohol in its eateries. I’m sure the Irish will embrace the Shamrock Shake when it’s 40 percent alcohol by volume.

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