You spent all last night preparing, filling flasks of Jameson and carefully memorizing a few Dropkick Murphys songs. And now the big day is here, its arrival heralded by parades and GREEN, EVERYWHERE GREEN. Happy St. Paddy’s 2009!
But not all is right today. One of the Emerald Isle’s most famous exports, the Shamrock Shake, is woefully out of reach in the City of New York. According to a Gothamist article dated 3/16/07, it has been for over two years. I LIVE in that city; I LOVE those shakes. I can think of no sadder revelation on what is supposed to be the happiest day of the year.
That I was unaware of this situation until now is because I just assumed I wasn’t looking hard enough. Each of the past four years I’ve found myself in a McDonald’s in late February/early March, asking about the shakes and receiving the same response (usually “que?”). I’d try one or two more locations, but pretty quickly give up the search. I’m a busy guy! In March I was always briefly home, anyway – where the shakes flow like a mountain stream – and able to get my fix.
What is it about the Shamrock Shake that gives me, and countless others like me, a food boner? It’s not the taste. I mean, it tastes GOOD, sure, but a vanilla milkshake with mint flavoring and green food coloring is hardly a culinary masterstroke. (Seriously, you can make your own with limited effort.) No, what makes Uncle O’Grimacey’s cocktail of choice such an important staple of early spring has little to do with taste and everything to do with sentiment.
No matter what homo-loving commie hippie freak-den you grew up in (I’m looking at you, Tian!), there’s no way you weren’t taken to McDonald’s as a child. Happy Meals! Toys! Colorful focus-grouped characters! Beyond saving your parents from unwanted cooking time, a trip to the Golden Arches was generally an assured “I love you, Mom” or “You’re the best!” So what if it was paid for – who doesn’t want that kind of recognition?
At McDonald’s more times than was probably nutritionally advised, I would look forward every year to the arrival of the Shamrock Shake. Like the Vernal Equinox in sugar form, it came to symbolize (along with the Cadbury Creme Egg… SO I WAS FAT) the sweet transition out of winter and into spring. Mint-bathed vanilla ice cream, beaten into a dull green milkshake so thick they had to upgrade it to “triple” status by the late ’90s. Perfect execution. More than anything, it was a product you could count on, something that would always be there no matter what. To be told that you live in the one part of the country where that’s not so true… is just devastating.
But we’re adults. We push on, hearts heavy for our stolen past but stomachs thrust ever forward, confident in the knowledge that even those foodstuffs that cut the deepest can one day be replaced. Or bought in New Jersey.