March 2011

The Elusive Shamrock Shake

Oh the mighty seasonal shake! How you humble us! The Shamrock shake is the most famous in a line-up of McDonalds holiday shakes (which include a Pumpkin Pie shake at Thanksgiving and an utterly revolting Eggnog shake for Christmas). And like the McRib, the Shamrock shake's elusive nature has only stoked the flames of passion among its fans.

You don't see the Shamrock Shake advertised as heavily now as it was in the 1980s and 1990s. It used to be a big thing, with ads trumpeting its release up to a month ahead of time. Now, some 20 or 30 years later, a lot of people have apparently forgotten about it. But not a core group of fans, myself among them.

Hollow Chocolate Bunnies

Sure, you have your fancy schmancy chocolate bunnies at Easter. But I think most of us are probably more familiar with the chintzy, cheap, hollow chocolate bunnies with the pasted-on sugar eyes.

Palmer is the widely acknowledged ruler of Cheap Easter Chocolate. Palmer candies proliferate throughout the springtime - hollow bunnies, marshmallow eggs, and the like. When I think of Palmer candies I think of those chocolate candies with the crispies in them,  which are found at Halloween. The genius of Palmer candies lies in the marketing and the wrapping.

For example, I remember one year I was the hit of the office when I brought in a bag of Palmer chocolate crispie eyeball treats. The wrapper had a bloodshot eyeball printed on it, with an optic nerve squiggling around the back and everything. Inside it was just a regular old cheap chocolate candy, but the super gross wrapping made it the star of the office candy celebration that year.

Brach's Chicks And Rabbits

I love just about every Easter candy. But Chicks and Rabbits are a huge exception to this rule.

When I was a kid, Easter baskets usually had a bunch of candy thrown in them loose. You'd never see something like that in the store these days. The food safety police would be all up in there, demanding that everything be pre-packaged.

Invariably your Easter assortment would have a big handful of Chicks And Rabbits. Partly because they are cheap, and partly because they are sizeable enough to hold up well against the plastic Easter grass onslaught. Most candies would fall down into the bottom of the basket, but the Chicks And Rabbits will stay afloat, if you will. And frankly, there just wasn't as much Easter candy variety in the 1970s as there is today.

Easter Candy: Robin Eggs

There are a lot of confusing aspects to Easter candy. And to the Easter mythos overall, really. When you mash up an ancient harvest and fertility celebration with the rebirth of Zombie Jesus, things get real weird, real fast.

Among the weirdnesses we have the eggs of animals (rabbits) which don't lay eggs. And also the eggs of animals (robins) which do lay eggs, but not in candy form. Pop quiz: name three distinguishing characteristics between Cadbury Mini Eggs, Robin Eggs, and Hummingbird Eggs. Go!

I can't really imagine why Whoppers decided to make an egg-shaped malted milk ball and call it Robin Eggs for Easter. Nothing about that makes sense, if you start to deconstruct it. Sure a lot of candies will make a pastel version for Easter. (M&Ms are the undisputed rulers of "strange colors; same candy" releases.) But why a robin specifically?

Grading "Good For You" Desserts

Beyond the category of "desserts that aren't too bad for you," there's a whole category of "desserts that are good for you, or which are comprised of essentially nothing."

Fat-Free Yogurt: C+
Good For You Because
  • Contains, you know, the cultures. Those are good for you. Probiotics and regularity and all.
  • Also contains protein (6g in a 6 ounce cup of Lucerne light yogurt) and calcium (30% RDA, ditto).


Pros

  • Comes in a startling variety of flavors, including several "dessert-y" flavors like Key Lime Pie and Boston Cream Pie.
  • Relatively affordable. My grocery store always has one brand on sale 10 for $5 or something.