In my final week of college, I ran an errand for a friend who had to leave school early, due to a family emergency. She wanted me to pick up a painting from a different friend, whom I'd never met, and store it for her until she could pick it up from me later that summer. Or at least, I think that's what the purpose of the errand was. To be honest, I don't remember.
But what I will never, ever forget is that when I entered my friend's friend's house, she asked me if I wanted a milkshake. Not coffee, or a glass of water, or nothing at all—which would have been completely fine—but a chocolate Oreo milkshake. She was making one for herself, and must have thought: Why not offer it to this stranger, too? I said yes, and made a promise to myself, then and there, that the next time I met someone for the first time, I would replace my default mode of awkwardness with unsuspecting friendliness, maybe a milkshake, because why not.
Fast forward to six years later. I don't offer a milkshake to every new person I meet, but I do my best to find its situational equivalent, like that time I took two Danish tourists from my uberPOOL to my favorite neighborhood bar. I don't know that I would have ever done this were it not for that milkshake I had at a stranger's house all those years ago.
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Milkshakes, to me, symbolize casual generosity. They're made for sharing, the way Archie does with Betty and Veronica in that iconic comic book image.
But the uberPOOL–Danish tourist situational milkshake is not an everyday thing—far from it. I'm much more likely to make and drink a smoothie, and take part in a situational smoothie (go to a gym class after work, meet a friend for a movie on Saturday). Normal, healthy things for a 28-year-old to do. Casual generosity is more of a conscious practice than a natural inclination for me, which makes it less "casual" in a way, but I try not to think about that too much. I'm more deliberate than spontaneous, and that's okay! Milkshakes are meant to be indulgent and special, after all, not suitable for a daily breakfast.
But then, there was a day when I had my second milkshake revelation: Why not be both deliberate and spontaneous? The drink that inspired me to think this was not an Oreo chocolate milkshake, but a banana-cardamom one from co-founder Merrill Stubbs, because it's kind of a smoothie (banana) but kind of a milkshake (ice cream). It's sophisticated, uses a fancy spice I wouldn't normally think to put in a shake, but also delights my inner six-year-old (I mean, go to the recipe and look at the adorable photos of Merrill's son enjoying it post-bike injury).
This banana-cardamom milkshake forced me to resist the urge to put myself, and the situations I find myself, into neat labels like "spontaneous" or "deliberate." Which is to say: Why not just live in the moment and enjoy it for what it is, instead of worrying about the type of person I am, or the type of situation that person precipitates? That's exhausting. Just keep enjoying the milkshake, girlfriend!
Symbolism aside, this milkshake is extremely satisfying. It's unapologetically rich, but a squeeze of lime cuts to the chase and wakes you up to how well earthy, edgy cardamom banters with sweet, reliable banana. (Is this Betty and Veronica in shake form?) If you're like me, you'll shake things up (sorry, not sorry) with more than just vanilla ice cream (like, say, cookies 'n' cream ice cream), and love what you discover. But nothing beats the original, which tastes like a nourishing smoothie, except 300 times better—because there's ice cream, too.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).