Happy belated St. Patrick’s Day! As I huddled beneath a chocolate-stained blanket to binge-watch Veronica Mars, I only dreamt of the grand, drunken Metro-North trip some of you experienced. Looking back at the holiday throughout the years, I am reminded of school dress-up days and food-dyed cupcakes that looked like toadstools. The green sock and tights combo is a relic of my yesteryears, so, today, as a mature and capable twenty-year-old I prepare for this somewhat irrelevant holiday by enjoying the fleeting pleasures of a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. Like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the Shamrock Shake can be found under the golden archways of McDonald’s joints all over the country. I visit McDonald’s only a handful of times each year and you can bet that nearly all my visits fall between February and early April. The Shamrock Shake is a mysterious and elusive treat: they aren’t sold at every McDonald’s location and can be tricky to track down, especially when other green-cream fans are searching, too.
As the company’s website explains, “it all began with a little girl, a football team, and a visionary doctor.” The Philadelphia Eagles’ Fred Hills’ daughter was in treatment for leukemia among other children and families who could not often afford travel and medical bills. Hills and Dr. Audrey Evans, a pediatric oncologist at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, joined forces with the local McDonald’s to run a St. Patrick’s Day themed promotion—green shakes, the Eagle’s color and the color of a holiday distraction, raised enough money to restore a four-story, seven-bedroom house near the Children’s Hospital. In 1974, it opened as the first Ronald McDonald House. Over the years, the Shake has become a national promotion, though its history is often ignored. The ’90s and 2000s witnessed the disappearance of the drink from menus, during a period of rebranding to redesign the disturbing 1980s Uncle O’Grimacey design.
Since 2010, the reintroduced Shake has been garnering a cult following, an underground army, if you will, of those who stop at nothing to find the Shake—more rare than a four-leaf clover. The Shamrock Shake is like Gatsby’s light at the end of the dock. It has a mysterious, chemically fabricated gleam that says, “hey! you’re almost through the winter! you’ve earned massive lumps of soft-serve tonight!” Mashable.com gives a good rundown on the Shake’s magnetism. It inspires artistic expression in best form known to millennials—the selfie. Bright green smoothness, pristine whipped cream, and a cherry on top. The Shake is an ode to aesthetics. Also, the green coloring really complements your red undertones for that perf selfie #nofilter look. Ask me and I’ll tell you the Shamrock Shake can do no wrong. There are people who blog about, tweet about it, organize meetups around the drink’s comeback. It’s a call and response phenomenon! For info on where the Sham’s been spotted, www.shamrockshake.com gives people the opportunity to both find and search for Shakes in their area. If you’re weak of heart, however, do not open the website without first taking a seat. The availability of Shamrock Shakes in the Tri-State area is upsettingly low. The thirst is literally real and the hunt must begin.
If anyone understands the discouraging search for this limited time dessert-drink, it’s me. During my sophomore year I took a cab to the local McDonald’s for the first Shamrock Shake I would have in New York. Unfortunately, the driver would not use the drive-thru lane and while I was in line among other Shamrockers he drove away, abandoning me on Main Street. This past week, the Shamrock Shake bested me again. A warning for all: the McDonald’s on Main Street is not stocking enough ice cream! Not only will you be disappointed at 1:30 am, but you will also be disheartened to realize that the next closest McDonald’s is ten minutes away on Route 9. However, if you are anything like me—and by that I mean alarmingly obsessed with a seasonal fast food item—you will inevitably trudge down Route 9 for the cool vanilla-mint masterpiece. When the pimpled boy behind the counter ask you which size you want, don’t say small. A regular Shamrock Shake will better reward your frenzied jog; even the ridged mound of whipped cream will feel deserved. The cherry will recall simple childhood joys! Reaching for my ice-cold holiday spirit that night I realized that my Vassar Shamrock Shake was a bright light in the darkness that is thesis proposals and Friday class. It was a small reminder to myself that the destination can be sweet. And though it’s thick enough to clog the straw and your integrity, your first sip will be worth the wait.
At last, my March had finally begun. Though job hunts are meaningless and it seems campus will be cold forever, the Shamrock Shake is here and it is just as magical as ever.