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Why This is the Only Milkshake I Like

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Today: The reason I've made peace with milkshakes, plus a smart technique to use on your summer fruit all season long. 

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strawberry milkshake

I have a clear memory of sitting in line at the McDonald’s drive-thru as a very young person: I am reclining in the backseat of my mother’s ’86 Nissan Stanza wagon, named the upside-down dumpster by my family for its unmistakable trapezoidal resemblance to where you leave your garbage in great big parking lots. My legs are stretched out the open window as long as my six years of life will let them. I always order a strawberry milkshake. It is good and neon pink and very cold, and I always test its wits by seeing how fast I can drink it down before getting brain freeze. I made a race out of most things then, and I still do. 

This is the story of how a memory can trick you into thinking that a certain food is really your style.

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The truth is, I would never choose a milkshake over a bowl of ice cream. I like to eat my food, not drink it. I like to pick out all of the stuff in ice cream and save the non-stuff for later. And I get distressed just thinking about all of that stray milkshake you lose to the walls of your blender when you make one. Milkshakes are just lazy ice cream, and worse: They take something beautiful and sacred and return it to its pre-beautiful, pre-sacred state. Why even churn it if you’re going to melt it back down? 

There's another, practical problem: I can never figure out the right time for a milkshake. Sidling up to a diner counter for burgers and milkshakes sounds so 1950s romantic I almost want to put on a poodle skirt about it, but the idea of consuming both—in full, in tandem—gives me a stomachache. Are they meant to be treated like a beverage? A dessert? I considered getting one at breakfast a while back, because I was at a place where you could get fries with your eggs and that kind of beautiful chaos in meal order struck me as good a time as any to suck down a pint of liquefied ice cream. I don’t feel deliberate about milkshakes. I feel why not? about them. 

I asked a lot of you how you felt about milkshakes over regular ice cream (Have you not told me yet? Tell me below!), and you said that you’re more refreshed after milkshakes, less thirsty. You told me that they don’t demand complete attention. All fair: You can consume them with one hand, which means your other is free to dip fries or palm your burger like a basketball or straighten out that poodle skirt. 

I’m going to take your convenience and your refreshment—and I will add to them roasted fruit. Because, it turns out, that is really why you should make a milkshake.

But first: Crank your oven and your A.C., if you have it (and accept my promise to give you a more eco-friendly recipe next month). Toss a mess of strawberries in turbinado sugar and drape them with a few lemon slices. Play here: Try maple syrup, or olive oil (crazy!), or honey. Hit them with a little salt, like you do everything. After a solid 30 to 40 minutes, they’ll release their juice and relax into their bodies—they will be like you at the very end of a yoga class, when you’re allowed to lay flat and extend your limbs and forget how to move your toes. They are strawberries living their best life. 

You know the rest: Blend these with a pint of really good vanilla ice cream. I added buttermilk for tang because why not? But again, you should feel free to play. Throw in a little citrus zest, the seeds from a vanilla bean, or a splash of vermouth instead of the buttermilk. Or some tarragon. The six-year-old me would have turned up her nose at that, so I used mint instead. This one’s for her. 

Roasted Strawberry Milkshake with Buttermilk and Mint 

Serves 2 to 4 

For the roasted strawberries: 

1 pound strawberries (from the market if you can get them), hulled and halved
3 to 4 tablespoons turbinado sugar, depending on sweetness of berries
Pinch salt
4 to 5 thin lemon slices 

For the milkshake: 

1 pint good vanilla ice cream
1/4 cup good-quality buttermilk
Leaves from 3 healthy mint sprigs
Roasted strawberries 

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Photos by Bobbi Lin

Tags: ice cream, milkshake, frozen desserts, strawberries