On Milkshakes

The tempestuous, moody Date Shake
The tempestuous, moody Date Shake

In college I was struck by the pretentiousness of certain writers. Like Lenin’s What is Art? or Sontag’s On Camp. They presumed to empirically analyze sensibilities that were nearly impossible to define. Their arrogance fascinated me and I hoped to add to the annals of critical thought someday with my own essay.

I tried once with Why I Wear A Dress. It was too silly and frivolous to ever pass muster with Suze or Vlad. It has not survived. All I can remember from that effort is the opening line, “Mama died making homemade jam.”  Lifted from the Supremes.

Life in the desert has opened me to new ideas. And this being the time of year when you can’t buy ice cream at the market without it melting on the way home, I crave the unattainable.

Barbara had been imploring me to try the Date Shakes at Cabazon. I had a hard time imagining the flavor, it seemed to involve planes of taste buds that should never intersect. Plus it meant a trip to the designer outlets. I love beautiful clothes, especially deeply discounted ones, but there is no room in my budget or my closet for anything new.

Nevertheless on my way to Beaumont to look at some fake foam bolders I was considering, I saw the Hadleys sign. I decided to stop on the way back. The bolders were a bust, the shake a delicious triumph. Dates and dairy do go together after all (think sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream).

My life with milkshakes began when I was 10. I would spend weekends on my Grandparent’s farm where we’d go to the local diner. I could order whatever I wanted to drink, invariably a chocolate shake. When it arrived Granddad would comment dryly, “looks like mastitis.” I was conversant early on with mammary infections in cattle.

In those days root beer was root beer, you could get a Brown Cow at the A&W. Technically a float not a shake but what were you expecting here, the rigors of Sontag? Moving from floats to phosphates, when I visited Boston the first time there was something called an egg cream at a fountain on Harvard Square. Seltzer made the milk frothy like egg whites. There was not an ovum in sight. More gimmick than taste.

After my teen years, shakes became the liquified styrofoam found at fast food chains. They lost their appeal.

A couple summers ago Billy and I went to the Tasty Freeze in Fort Wayne and he reminisced about a shake from his youth called a Green River. I thought he was joking. It sounded so corny, so Mayberry, so Creedence Clearwater. It conjured up tastes of polluted moss and buzzing mosquitos swarming in my throat. He was insistent and instructed the youngster on how to make one. Basically, lime soda with vanilla ice cream. They were a beautiful electric green and tasted pretty good.

Not long after that I was waiting for a flight in Indianapolis, reading an article in the Star on local soda fountains that had survived. The pictured drink was a Green River. Billy had been telling the truth.

The crown of creation: Brandini's Vanilla Toffee Shake
The crown of creation: Brandini’s Vanilla Toffee Shake

The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make moving to Palm Springs is going from an urban mindset to a suburban one. Everything here is drive-thru, franchised, or made in China. When I heard the story of two kids who loved to make candy, went on a life-changing trip to Italy, invented their own product, won Martha Stewart’s endorsement and were making a go of it, I wanted to support their indigenous venture. But I just didn’t see how they could do it with their product: toffee.

I like toffee though I rarely seek it out. I indulge a couple times a year and can’t eat much at one time. If Brandini’s is to have continued success it will be because of their innovative use of it. They seem to be developing new products conscientiously with only a handful of items other than candy currently in their shop. They are not toffee-ing everything in sight to see what sticks.

The toffee encrusted ice cream bar is excellent. They coat the bars right in front of you after you order. The bars are not filled with preservatives, sitting prefab in a freezer for months crystallizing and losing flavor.

Their poppers are amazing, and I’m not talking amyl. I’m talking popcorn. Every kernel is saturated in buttery sweetness, with flecks of candy intermingled throughout. Completely addictive.

The star of the show, however, is the vanilla toffee shake. Nonpareil. Creamy vanilla ice cream with tiny toffee sprinkles on top, chunks strewn throughout, and at the bottom a mother lode of candy. A long spoon is provided as is an extra-large straw. The larger girth promotes stronger suckage.

Many days I’ll have a late lunch around 2 or 3, then walk over for a shake around 7:30. That’s all it takes to get by in the desert.


The Last Temptation of Me

One thought on “On Milkshakes

  1. It all sounds good to me BUT you can’t beat an Ole Green River……Say we have a Wabash River in Peru…at times
    it appeared to be a little green…now I’m wondering…huh?

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