Entries Tagged as 'cooking'

The Fat Diaries: The Supermarket Field Trip

June 10th, 2011 at 4:33 pm 4 Comments

Yesterday I was, once again, debating whether I should go grocery shopping with the kids or whether popcorn and ketchup would be a good dinner. The fact it was 99° outside was making that ketchup look really good.

In the end, however, the human desire for real food won out and, both kids in tow, I headed to the Giant supermarket.

I like Giant for one reason in particular: hand-scanners.  I like seeing an itemized tally, being able to bag as I go, and simply waltzing through check-out.  It’s also a fantastic way to keep my kids busy in the store. They take turns scanning and then calmly passing the scanner to their sibling. I occasionally hear “It’s your turn now,” or an “Oh, thank you!” from the kids that makes me hope other grownups are listening.

Something occurred yesterday, however, that had never happened before. My daughter started asking me about the food I put into the cart.

“Mommy, can we have blueberries?” she asked.

“Sure, we can have those.”

“Are blueberries healthy?”

I beamed. GREAT question, kiddo .“They sure are. They’re very healthy.”

“Why?”

(I had to think about this.) “They have antioxidants and… uh… vitamin, C and junk… and they’re high in fiber.”

“So I can like them?”

“Yeah, go nuts.”

“Can we get some more healthy food, mommy?”

“You bet. You want some cucumbers?”

“YEAH!!”

At this point I had to suppress the urge to jump up and down with glee. I had a daughter who was interested in eating healthy.  Sure, my son was busy spinning in circles, dangerously close to the pineapples, but ONE of them was starting to care!

I’d been stressing for a while with my kids that we want to eat healthy food so we can have healthy bodies. I’d purposefully avoided the word “fat” because I didn’t want to put emphasis on body type. I simply used the words “healthy” and “unhealthy”.

And this seemed to be doing the trick, to the point where my daughter was now asking questions.

It was all going swimmingly until I grabbed a package of whole-grain tortilla chips (I was going to make nachos with leftover chili).

“Mommy? What are those?”

I froze like I’d been caught doing something unspeakable. “Um. Chips.”

“Are chips healthy?”

“Whole grains are healthy,” (Notice I didn’t say chips were healthy.)

“So chips are healthy?” she asked again with alarming perception.

I couldn’t lie. The damage could be irreversible. “No. They are not.”

“Are they junk?”

“Yes.”

“Then why are we getting them?”

‘Cause I like nachos, I thought, but I knew better than to say it.

“Are they going to make you FAT?” she asked.

Oh crap.

Where the hell did she pick that up from? Did she pick that up from me? Suddenly everything was going all wrong! I didn’t want her to equate junk food with fat, I just wanted her to equate good food with healthy.

Needless to say I spent the rest of the shopping trip in quiet meditation (aside from the usual, “keep your hands to yourself!” “No, that cereal has too much sugar,” “That’s for dogs, not humans,” “If I hear one more quote from SpongeBob…”).

I’m still freaking out. How am I going to do this? My kids are getting to an age where what they learn now can affect how they view food throughout their entire lives. How in the heck am I going to get all the right messages across? How can I instill the right kind of caution without causing them to hate themselves, or judge other people?

I don’t know. There’s a lot of pressure to get everything perfect, and I realize that the chance of perfect is slim to none. There will be lessons to learn, and a bit of re-programming when I get those lessons wrong and have to start again.

I have to accept that I will be asked questions about body-types and diet that will be uncomfortable and justify why some kids get soda and cookies every day but they don’t.

And I won’t always have the right answers, especially considering that I’ve only changed my eating habits in the last four years.

The most I want for them is to avoid the pitfalls I fell into, but I don’t know how, since I never was able to avoid them myself. In other words, I discovered a cure for the sickness, but not how to avoid getting it in the first place.

I feel an overwhelming sense of desperation when I think about how clueless I am right now.

I can’t get discouraged though, even when it seems I’m failing. This is worth trying to get right.


When Kids Take Over the Kitchen

May 13th, 2011 at 6:30 pm Comments Off

Writing in the Washington Examiner, Meghan Cox Gurdon gets a late Mother’s Day surprise when her children decide to cook her dinner. Will it be a delicious feast or a disaster?

Some holidays have a longer comet trail than others. Christmas, for instance: Weeks afterward, people padding around in their stocking feet may get stabbed by a dried needle of yuletide fir. Halloween’s gluttony is followed by days in which hollow-eyed children insist they didn’t eat candy from their stash before dinner — and that’s not chocolate on their cheeks, honest it isn’t.

Mother’s Day typically lasts no longer than the 24 hours allotted on the calendar. A family may knock itself out for a few hours — bringing coffee in bed, making cards, maybe taking mother out for brunch — but by the next morning the event is safely in the rearview mirror and people are asking her again, “What’s for dinner?”

So imagine the surprise of a woman who approached her kitchen the next day with the intention of answering that question, only to be fended off by a panicked cry.

“Don’t come into the kitchen!” a young voice yelled. “Don’t look!”

“But I need to start dinner,” the woman called from the next room.

“No! I am making dinner! It’s a late Mother’s Day surprise!” cried the voice. “Actually, it is a feast!”

There was a pause as the mother considered this fork, as it were, in the road. Down one tine, to extend the metaphor, was the practical imperative of preparing a proper meal for a houseful of people. Down the other tine was impracticality and whimsy, a letting go of the custom so as to accommodate a motivated junior chef. Logic and custom argued for Option A but as is often the case with the happiest moments in family life, the woman surprised herself and chose impractical Option B. …

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Help! I’m Tired of Cooking for My Friends

April 8th, 2011 at 5:39 pm 3 Comments

Writing in the Globe and Mail, David Eddie hears from a reader who’s tired of being asked to help cook for her friends’ dinner parties. The reader writes:

My husband and I enjoy entertaining. When our friends ask if they can bring something, we always say ‘No, just bring your appetite.’ We’re happy to supply the food and drink. The problem is that when we’re invited to our friends’ homes for dinner, and I ask if I can bring something, we are always asked to bring a salad, a dessert or something else very specific. I end up preparing food whether I’m the host or the guest. For the record, I always bring some kind of gift for the hosts anyway. But I resent cooking for someone else’s gathering when I never ask anyone to bring anything to my place. I’d love to just be a guest once in a while. Is there any way to raise this without hurting anyone’s feelings?

Is there a way to escape from these kitchen-time demands?  Eddie responds:

I have noticed that the etiquette and protocol of what to bring to dinner parties varies across different subsets of our overall culture.

If my wife Pam and I are going to her parents’ house, for example, or to the fabulous mansion of my friend Linda, society doyenne, we bring flowers.

To bring Linda wine would seem too collegiate, even vaguely gauche. Her manservant (okay, she doesn’t really have a manservant – let’s say her “husband”) would gaze in puzzlement at the proffered bottle before shrugging and whisking it off to the “subpar” section of their cellar.

But to most other occasions, bringing a bottle of wine is perfectly appropriate. It’s an unstated/assumed courtesy.

I know a lot of people awkwardly ask, “What should I bring?” But the answer is almost always either an equally awkward “Nothing, just yourselves” or “Well, if you have a bottle of wine around …”

But that whole “what-should-I-bring-oh-just-yourselves” exchange strikes me as uncomfortable, unnecessary, mostly mendacious and basically just best dispensed with.

Especially in your case, since everyone keeps asking you for appetizers and salads and so forth. So that, sister, is my advice to you: Stop asking.

Click here to read the rest.

The Fat Diaries: The ‘Royal’ Diet Hits America

March 25th, 2011 at 4:53 pm 3 Comments

Have you got your commemorative plate? Your William & Kate mug? Is your gigantic refrigerator bearing the likenesses of the soon-to-be-married royal couple? No? Well then you’re probably like most Americans when it comes to the impending nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton. As much of an Anglophile as I’ve been accused of being, I can only muster a polite, “oh! That’s nice.” I was 3 months old when Charles tied the knot with Diana, so this frenzy is all new to me. In America, marriages among the first circle are cloistered affairs where the public are forcibly shut out save for the “official released” photographs and the few paparazzi snaps. In fact, most American celebrity weddings maintain plausible deniability within the first few months, just in case they don’t pan out. In the United Kingdom, however, the wedding is a matter of cultural pride (or embarrassment, depending on whom you ask). Not since Bella & Edward has the world taken this much notice of a wedding. It’s a polarizing subject, and one which is generating millions of pounds in merchandise, fashion and even the dieting world. Wait —what?

That’s right, diets. Prince William’s future mum-in-law (according to the Telegraph) has been trying to get in shape for the big day, adopting a French diet plan that is taking Europe by storm. The rumor states that Carole Middleton has been using an Atkins-like plan called the “Dukan Plan.” You can read about it here. There’s a helpful video explaining the diet, even if the reporter seems to think that donning a beret and a French accent in a French restaurant is funny. Already the diet has been gaining in popularity and its new alleged connection to the royal wedding is generating HUGE buzz. Fortunately it’s just in time for a book on the Dukan Plan due in the U.S. next month (coincidence or guerilla marketing?). The Royal Family has denied Mrs. Middleton’s adoption of the Dukan Plan.

Aside from the whole Atkins “déjà vu” problem I’m getting with the Dukan Plan, I’m troubled by the alarming number of responses from dieticians who think the plan is dangerous. I had to agree when I saw that a man who followed the diet had a refrigerator full of processed sodium-pumped meat cuts. And of course, I’m dubious of one any “eat whatever you like and on x days eat a Spartan meal,” plans. I’ve done three or four of those go-crazy plans where I was told I could eat whatever and hang the cost, provided I fasted or ate the staple food the next day. The worst one I did was with a vegetable diet where on the “back to basics” day I could only eat roasted zucchini. It didn’t make me feel healthy, it made me feel sick, and I certainly didn’t lose any weight on the plan, because I was making up for that nagging empty feeling on my go-nuts days. I can’t even imagine mastering my gag reflex mechanism to stomach a meat-only day. BUH-ARF.

To me this fad, so-called celebrity diet (“celebrity” being in a 3-degrees-from-Kevin-Bacon sense), is just nonsense, and dangerous nonsense at that. This is just another product to slap a price sticker on with the big legend, “Will & Kate In Love Forever 2011.” So you can eat your oat bran out of a Will & Kate Spoon, take your meat cutlets out of the freezer door in Will’s forehead, and then have a heart attack on your Will & Kate sofa. No wonder Hollywood actors get married in secret.


A Conservative Case for Farmers’ Markets

March 11th, 2011 at 6:24 pm 27 Comments

Every Thursday evening, around 7 p.m., I begin checking outside my side door to see if the elves have made their delivery yet.

It’s quite amazing: At one moment the brick stoop is empty. In the next, a rustic white-painted wooden box with a black lid sits waiting for me to bring it in to the kitchen.

I open it with an unfailing sense of awe and wonder.  During the previous week, the elves have been traveling all over the countryside, seeking out the freshest and most delicious things to eat. This night’s offering: some fantastically colored carrots, purple and yellow along with the more familiar orange; filets of local wild flounder, packed in ice; two young chickens, frozen. Under these lie a paper sack of all-purpose flour tied with twine; two tubs of hand-churned butter; a brown bag containing handsome-looking green beans; a scattering of full broccoli heads; and a carton of eggs.

My excitement amuses my children.  Jeez mom it’s just a box of groceries. I examine the carrots.  Compared to their ordinary supermarket cousins, they look truly odd: Aside from the strange colors, they are gnarly and thin—or wait, here’s one that is bulgy and fat.  I rinse and taste it over the sink—sweet, earthy, crunchy–the flavor you think a carrot ought to have but never does.  I offer a sample to our small carrot expert:  she agrees and eagerly asks for another.

There’s less enthusiasm for the fish. No matter: When I cook the filets the next day for their Dad and me—dusting the filets with flour, salt and pepper, and doing not much else to them except sautéing them in some butter—they will taste meltingly fresh and tender.   And as I put the two chickens away in the freezer—weekend supper—I explain to the kids that these chickens actually walked in a farmyard amongst other farm animals in real daylight. (When I get around to roasting them, my husband will be impressed that the muscles attaching their legs to their body require vigorous carving to remove.  They don’t just fall apart. “Maybe they were doing walking lunges around the yard…?” he wonders.)  The flour is unbleached and has been freshly ground in a mill, not a factory using a logo of a mill.  And the eggs have come from the same kind of aforementioned chickens.  I’m especially excited about the eggs. I’d tried my first fresh farm egg last summer, bought on vacation at a rural roadside stand:  It was lighter in texture and color than a store-bought egg, and had much more flavor.  Before then, I hadn’t ever thought much about the taste of eggs or their degrees of egginess. I’d immediately scrambled another for my mother, with whom we were staying, and who was raised in small-town Australia. Her family had kept chickens in the backyard and…

“Oh my gosh, this tastes of my childhood!” she exclaimed before gobbling down the rest of the egg.

As I finish unpacking the box, I realize that I have actually stepped back into my mother’s stories of a pre-refrigerated, pre-factory-farm world of food. She was born in 1935. Australia may have been a bit behind the modern curve by urban American standards of the time, but not by much. She remembers waking up from nightmares to the reassuring, early morning clip clop of the milkman’s horse. Like my little farm box, the fresh bottles were left by the side door and the empties removed (or what we now call “recycled”).  You had an “icebox” not a fridge or freezer—something like the ancestor of the Coleman cooler. If a fruit or vegetable wasn’t in season you didn’t eat it unless it came in a can.  Chickens were—as my mother learned—like house pets you put down less sentimentally than the family dog, and then ate. Beef was universally grass-fed and free-range; agricultural scientists hadn’t yet figured out that it would be more efficient and cost-effective to pen thousands of them together, stuff them full of corn and hormones, and let them marinate in their own manure for a few months before grinding them up into mass-produced hamburgers.

I don’t want to sentimentalize this period, obviously.  And nor would my mother.  In a time when cheap cuts of meat were less plentiful than they are today, she and her siblings were never allowed to leave the table until they had choked down their last piece of heart/kidney/liver or worse, rubbery tripe.  There are vegetables to this day I can’t persuade her to eat—squash, for example—because it was served to her as a canned watery mush when she was a child.

And yet–as I wash and put the box’s contents away–I’m struck by how much of what we are calling today the “farm-to-table” movement is really just a modern re-imagining, or re-invention, of a less industrialized time.  The elves (okay full-disclosure: they are not really elves) who deliver my weekly container work for a nascent web-based company, Arganica Food Club.   Like dozens of similar companies now popping up around the country, Arganica organizes food from regional farms for city-dweller consumption.   Every Sunday I am sent an email with a spreadsheet attachment that lists the coming week’s offerings.  Most of it is seasonal produce and locally raised meat, but amongst the suppliers are also artisanal dip- and cracker- makers, bakers, pasta impressarios, and even pre-fab homecooked meals for the time-pressed.  I check off what I want, email it back, and then the order appears on my doorstep a few days later.

These companies are a natural progression from the now ubiquitous urban Farmer’s Market: instead of waiting for the weekend—or whatever day of the week is officially declared Market Day—I can have the farmer’s market brought to me.  Not that I don’t like going to the Farmer’s Market—there are still some products I can get only there that I can’t get online (a local guy makes pastas and sauces that are to die for; ditto another stall that sells delicious cured meats).  But essentially Arganica and others are doing what even Whole Foods is now too big to do: deliver truly fresh, truly local, truly organic foods that still taste of the place they were grown in.

In that sense we have reached maybe the perfect juncture of old and new: We have the technological abilities (read: modern refrigeration, appliances and online shopping) to achieve the maximum benefit—and enjoyment—from locally grown, fresh food.  And the increasing awareness of this type of food’s health benefits have led to a growing consumer demand, one that small companies such as Arganica are scrambling to meet.

But maybe the biggest remaining hurdle fresh food advocates face is the pervasive perception that to eat locally and healthily is somehow “elitist”—not to mention more costly and time-consuming than buying fast or processed meals.   The minute you purchase an organic apple, you are suddenly lumped among NPR-listening, NYT’s crossword-puzzle-doing, out-of-touch-with-the-common-man liberals. As a conservative—in the robust, Teddy Roosevelt tradition—I am perpetually gobsmacked to find myself on the side of the political fence with people who are enraged that Michelle Obama is trying to introduce healthy foods into public schools—or insist that the right to be obese and eat junk food can be found somewhere in the Constitution. When you think about it, these arguments against preparing meals from scratch are nonsense.

Often an example given is the McDonald’s $1 meal, which we are assured is essential to low-income budgets: Imagine a single mother hauling her children in for breakfast before school drop-off, on her way to work.  No food prep needed during the morning madness when she’s trying to get the kids dressed and ready to leave.  If she has two kids, she spends only $3 (plus tax) on breakfast for the whole family.

Now compare the price of the $1 meal—along with its zero-nutritional value and the future health problems it’s going to create—to a box of Cheerios (“Honey Nut” if you prefer the sweet version). An 18-oz box costs approximately $3.00 at a chain supermarket.  One box contains approximately 17 servings–which works out to about 18-cents per serving, not including milk.  So add in a 1/2 cup of milk—priced at an average of $4 per gallon—and that comes to an additional 12-cents per serving, or 30-cents total per breakfast.  The “prep time” to pour cereal and milk (presuming the kids can’t do it themselves?) surely amounts to less time than it takes to go to a restaurant, stand in line, and pay for the meal.  And less money as well when you factor in gas or transportation costs to the restaurant. I could do the same exercise with lunch or dinner.

Then there’s the “time and convenience” excuse.  We are told that working parents these days are too busy to cook.  And even if they have a spare moment or two, they are certainly too exhausted to prepare a meal

But this argument too doesn’t hold up after a few minutes thought: Maybe never in the course of human history has a society had “more time” than ours to prepare and eat food. And yes, I’m including working single mothers and “dual-income earning” families here.  It wasn’t so long ago that you couldn’t eat a meal without lighting a stove—with firewood or coal.  And back then, it was common for everyone in the household to work and do chores, including children.  There were no microwaves, no electric stoves, no refrigerators, no food processors, no convenience stores or supermarkets. Every single item of food had to be cleaned and prepped from scratch using manual tools. The day ended with lightfall, so you’d better have it all done by then.  And even with the advent of better technology and lighting,  I don’t think an Edwardian or Depression-era household—or a 1950s housewife for that matter—enjoyed  “more time” than we do today. The sheer easiness and convenience of modern life has simply allowed us to busy ourselves in different ways, liberated from the once all-consuming daily tasks of domesticity. And thus we have drifted away from learning very basic, useful household skills.

So while it may seem easier to order in a pizza, or zap a pre-fab mini-meal in the microwave, it’s not really so.  How much extra effort does it really take to get together a bowl of salad (especially given that lettuces now come pre-mixed and pre-washed)?  Or boil fresh beans and toss them with some salt, oil and lemon? Or, as I noted with the fish filet, dust it with some flour and seasoning and fry it or broil it for a minute or two?  You can do the same with simple cuts of chicken and beef. Or put on a pot of pasta and in the space of time it’s cooking whip up very simple homemade sauce.  There’s an app for that.

Then do the economics for dividing the costs of the fresh ingredients among three or four people—for most dishes I doubt it will come out to much more than a large take-out Domino’s pizza.

The problem is that we’ve persuaded ourselves—as we surf the internet, download movies, check our email and play games on our phones—that preparing food from scratch is as awesome and time-consuming as knitting our own sweaters.  Who would even bother to do that?  It’s true that planning fresh meals does take a certain amount of ingenuity and creativity to avoid repetition—moreso than cruising the prepared food aisle or ordering the number 4 with Diet Coke, thanks.  And yet, that’s what makes the emerging farm-to-doorstep market so exciting—and in the end, so easy.

By putting the farm order forms online, you can order your groceries at your convenience—and also have the time to brood over the choices as you check your email or quickly google search a recipe. Arganica, like other sites, even posts fast recipes for that week’s seasonal harvest.  When the food arrives, you’ve already thought the meals through.  And now you don’t need to go to the supermarket for several days. What’s more, everything you make will taste delicious.  Anyone who has grown even so little as a cherry tomato on their patio knows the difference between the fresh-plucked juicy version versus the red cannonballs that fill supermarket bins in January.

I’m wondering, then, if farm marketers haven’t made a mistake by focusing on the homey, nostalgic aesthetic of another era.  At a certain level it makes sense: that customers receive their weekly deliveries hand-packed in wooden crates and paper sacks is a powerful psychological sales tool against the shiny, shrink-wrapped products of mass-produced food.

But I wonder if a better economic strategy wouldn’t be to package fresh farm products in a more contemporary way.  Americans are innately forward-looking.  They want the next good thing, not the good thing of 30 years ago. I’m sure there’s a way to box the food in a “green” container that looks hip and urban—a hint of retro, but not too much. Like the funkily patterned, reusable shopping bags now on sale everywhere—or even something in a smartphone aesthetic: What would an app for a farm-to-table delivery service look like?  Go from there.

Now excuse me while I go trim that broccoli for tonight’s dinner.


Follow Danielle on twitter @DCrittenden1


The Fat Diaries: Why Can’t Cap’n Crunch Sell Healthy?

March 11th, 2011 at 6:20 pm 8 Comments


The University of Pennsylvania recently did a study of children aged 4-to-6 to discover whether kids were influenced by cereal packaging. Namely, does a big cartoon penguin on the box make cereal seem to taste better to kids or not?  I’m sure you see where this is going: the studies found that no matter which cereal was sampled by the kids, they ultimately chose the one with the cute fluffy baby penguins on the box.

First of all, I have one problem with this study in that they only tested kids aged four to six. Kids that age have no buying power. In fact I’m one of the millions of parents who would rather saw their own leg off with a rusty lemon zester than take small children anywhere near a grocery store. I buy the cereal I want my kids to eat and then put them into see-through plastic bins at home. They don’t know what brand I bought, they don’t know what special offer was being promoted on the back. They don’t even know whether I got the really cheap stuff in bulk (the stuff that comes in plastic bags instead of boxes).

The few times that I’ve been forced to take the kids into the store (literally, it was that or starve to death) I have noticed that, yes, they do gravitate towards the cartoon-y boxes of junk cereal, but ultimately I’m in control. They can cry, scream and blubber all they want but it’s my choice what goes into the shopping cart.

There has been a loud outcry against using cartoons and friendly anthropomorphic creatures to promote cereals, candy and restaurant chains and I suspect there always will be. I’m not upset at a company for finding a marketing strategy that works. And public censure seems to be brow-beating some of the more popular chains; for example McDonalds is phasing out Ronald McDonald the Clown. No anti-clown legislation is to blame here, the chain is just weighing negative publicity with sales and deciding that it’s time for Ronald to stick to the McDonalds House Charities and stay out of the salads and frappes.  Is that going to stop major chains and companies from finding ways to appeal to kids?  Heck no.

Of course what I don’t get is why companies promoting healthy cereals and foods for kids can’t get with the program. Would it really kill some of these guys to pander a little to their target market? Take Cascadian Farms Organic Kids cereal for example: C’mon guys! Two tiny little kids hiding protectively behind a logo? Put a damn cartoon squirrel on the box! You could pay a college student $50 to design one–believe me, I’ve been there! I’ve seen a lot of healthy cereals in the stores that are healthy, and some of them even geared towards kids, but you’d hardly know it because it’s all packaged in flat unappealing boxes. Integrity is all well and good, but you still have to market, people!

Some healthy/organic kids cereals have got the idea. Envirokids have always had bright adorable fluffy critters dominating their boxes, like this box of Gorilla Puffs, and I’ve always loved the cute puffin on the Barbara’s cereals.  The design looks pretty staid, but my kids think that little puffin is adorable and they love the peanut butter variety of the cereal. Earth’s Best brand organic food has Sesame Street characters on the front!

So there you go, folks. It’s not exactly a wasteland out there! A parent has options in a world that’s been painted to be bleak and uncaring. Cartoon marketing is a double-edged blade, and you can make it your own weapon in the fight against junk food and false promises! See you in Hell, green check mark!


The Fat Diaries: Eating Green on St. Patty’s Day

March 4th, 2011 at 8:41 pm Comments Off


It’s March, folks! Time to break out the green food coloring!

Seriously, what is America’s obsession with turning everything a vomit-inducing shade of neon green for St. Patrick’s Day? One would almost think it was reverse psychology to make food less appealing, yet hundreds of companies and hundreds of chains and even public schools and offices cave into this impulse to make sure everyone is sporting green on St. Patrick’s Day… at least on our tongues.

I personally was never into this fad. I never liked the clover-shaped cookies with green sugar on them, and I’m a self-professed cookie addict! Green scrambled eggs made me want to barf as did green bread, green pretzels and (shudder) green beer.

My paternal grandmother is Irish-American so in my house we celebrate our Irish heritage with corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, brown soda bread, and Guinness. I’m not saying it’s more authentic or better for me. It’s just not green­ — even the cabbage has wilted to a healthy traditional brown.

That’s probably why I felt like I’d been living in a cave for the last few decades when everyone on Twitter started buzzing about green-colored food item. The Shamrock Shake is making the rounds again at McDonald’s. I’d never heard of this shake before, so I seriously had no clue what was going on when people were tweeting in all-caps “I FOUND THE SHAMROCK SHAKE!!!1  \m/ (>.<) \m/”.

Apparently this phenomenon has been at Mickey D’s since 1970 when the chain unveiled a green minty-flavored milkshake as a seasonal St. Patrick’s Day beverage. It’s been credited as a forerunner of fast food gimmicky seasonal drinks like the pumpkin spice latte and the eggnog shake.

The Shamrock Shake disappeared for a while in the 90’s but resurfaced recently to a nationwide clamor. It has a rabid following similar to the mythical “McRib” trackers. During my research, I actually stumbled across a website which is solely dedicated to finding locations that sell the Shamrock Shake. Chaucer-like pilgrimages are then formed to venture out to McDonald’s restaurants miles away. Most fans are people who had it in their childhood and long for that misty-eyed nostalgia. Some simply like finding something that’s rare and available for a limited time only. Some people (like me) are simply curious to see what they’ve been missing.

Steeling myself for the worst, I decided to check up on the nutritional information first.  At first glance I wasn’t too worried. A 12 oz shake was 420 calories, but that was better than some milkshakes you read about that are around 1,000 calories. Then I looked at sugar content and stopped dead. There were 60 grams of sugar in a shake. I quickly messaged my food-scientist friend and asked, “Quick, what does 60 g of sugar look like?” She answered that it was roughly one-third of a cup’s worth. Ewwww.

Well, I decided that I wouldn’t have to finish it all, and asked my husband to pick up a Shamrock Shake. I have to give my husband credit for running out to fast-food places for the weirdest things and at the worst hours so I can write these articles (Yay, Joe!)

“Here’s your toothpaste-flavored milkshake,” he said handing it too me. It was the obnoxious shade of green I was expecting, topped with whipped cream and a cherry. My first few sips were pretty pleasant. It was cool and minty and creamy. After I’d finished an inch or so, however, the refreshing part departed and I was gagging on the sweetness. All I could taste was sweet. Soon I was feeling as green as the milkshake and wishing the sugary film on my teeth would go away. So it was pretty good at first, but 8oz was too much for me. More than half of the shake went down the sink by the time I was done with it. Ideally, I would get one of these, add a little whiskey and share it with 3 other friends. That seems more in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day.

If you really want a green minty St. Patrick’s Day drink, rather than fall victim to high gas prices, why not make your own shake? All it really takes is milk, mint extract and ice cream. You could even add the food coloring if you really have to. I made my own version today to compare. I used a lot less sugar and low fat ice cream so I felt daring enough to attempt a mint-cookie garnish on top. Grace each cup with a gelt coin on the rim, and serve to your friends. Whiskey is optional, but who am I to snub tradition?