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Published:June 15th, 2008 14:45 EST
American Junk Food: Milkshakes

American Junk Food: Milkshakes

By Daniel Mabee


Sometimes, on a blazing summer day, a scoop of ice cream just won`t cut it. Sure, it may taste delicious and cold, but you just want something... more. Something you can take with you, enjoying at your leisure - something with a little heart and soul put into it. On those days, I recommend you get a milkshake.

Shakes come in every flavor ice cream has to offer, and then some. Virtually anything (as long as it is sweet and tasty) can be put into a milkshake - from Twinkies, to Heath Bars, to Oreos, to your favorite liquor - or, of course, just plain old vanilla. To whom do we owe this fantastic twist on an already delicious dessert?

The term "milkshake" first entered the American vocabulary in 1885, advertised in a newspaper. Back then, however, people were enjoying a slightly different shake - the term was exclusively used to describe iced milk drinks with whiskey. Not a bad idea by any means, but not the modern milkshake.

It didn`t take long for people to recognize the merit of non-alcoholic frozen drinks, however, and by the turn of the century shakes were a popular summertime refreshment. Just as today, popular flavors of the time included chocolate and strawberry, but the drinks had a very different texture. Thinner, with larger chunks of crushed ice, shakes did not yet have blenders to give them their modern thickness. Still, this author doubts they were anything short of wonderful.

As any great idea does, the milkshake quickly became an engrained part of the America culture. As early as the 1930s, people - primarily young people and students - were gathering at their local soda joint to enjoy the frozen treats together. The blender had been invented in 1922, enabling the shake explosion.

Around that time, the malted shake was introduced by Chicago-based drugstore Walgreens. By the 1950s, malted shakes were being offered in every soda fountain, standing strong alongside their maltless cousins.

And indeed, the 1950s were a golden era for the frozen drinks. Soda fountains were popular like never before, often becoming the community gathering spot for a town`s youth - much like today`s Starbuck`s. Black and white tile floors, paper hats, jukeboxes, poodle skirts, Elvis, and milkshakes. Sounds like a good time.

Although not as prominent today, the shake still enjoys a wide consumer base. Although not "hand dipped," or made with real ice cream, shakes can be found in any number of fast food chains across America Look hard enough, and you can still find a place who makes good, wholesome, real milkshakes.

Really, though, there is no excuse not to go out, get the fixin`s, and make one at home. Use whatever sweet delights you have lying around! Snicker`s Bar? Sounds incredible. A juicy peach? Why not?

After all, lazy summer afternoons are the mother of invention.