Dick Clark, Purveyor Of Mediocre Food, Dies At 82
American Icon. Perpetually Youthful Person. Game Show Host. Musical Lifestyle Brand Dick Clark went to the giant turntables in the sky this week at the age of 82, thereby marking the countdown to a slow death of an era for a generation. (Not mine. I consider myself more of a Solid Gold generation kind of girl.)
Although I never really paid much attention to Mr. Clark or American Bandstand, I was surprised to find out (post mortem) how effectively he had turned his talent into an entire brand. Did you know that aside from hosting the longest running variety television show in history that Dick Clark also created a chain of restaurants modeled around the show and his television persona?
I know. It seems like crazytalk, but in between Dick Clark’s busy schedule hosting a weekly musical onslaught, hosting the id="mce_marker"0,000 pyramid and ushering in the new year from 3 BC to the present day the man somehow found the time to create a menu theme that appeals to the hungry crowds of smalltown America. From the smoggy truck stops of New Jersey to the glittering streets of Branson, MO to the great Salt Lake of the west, the masses can mourn his passing with almond crusted chicken fingers and a dessert called the “Ooey Gooey Chocolate Orgy”. Their tears washed down with cold sweating tumblers of whole milk (skim also available).
Which brings me to today’s topic, milkshakes. Specifically, the history of this mid twentieth century symbolic teenybopper treat.
I bet you’re thinking “Jeebus Christo, smooth parlay into that one!”, right?” (Its a talent.) Milkshakes long predate Mr. Clark and his musically themed empire by about 50 years or so. when a milk based alcoholic drink was mentioned in an unnamed print source in 1885. According to popular tale, the early milkshake was more like eggnog or an Alexander as the recipe contained milk, eggs and whiskey and not a hint of fruit, ice cream or anything child friendly. Malted milk drinks came on the scene shortly thereafter in 1887 as a nonalcoholic dietary supplement for the very young, old or invalids.
As time marched on to the beat, the milkshake eventually lost its alcoholic kick drum. Around the turn of the twentieth century the definition of a milkshake had changed from its hooch laced cesspool of fun and regret to beverages described as a “wholesome drinks made with chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla syrups.” In 1911 Hamilton Beach debuted the first electric drink mixer, which further shifted the direction of the milkshake towards the chilled drink direction by adding ice. In 1922 Steven Poplowski invented the first blender and the icy, frothy version of the milkshake was born.. sans ice cream.
The milkshake that most people are familiar with today, the cold, ice creamy waistline killer was created in 1922 in Chicago by Ivar “Pop” Coulson. Mr. Coulson worked at a Walgreens soda counter where on a magical day he decided to add a couple of scoops of ice cream to a malt. The drink was an instant hit with the teenage set. Before anyone knew it, soda counters were popping up nationwide to indulge their newfound milkshake habit.
Milkshakes continued to grow in popularity through the 1940′s and 50′s with the proliferation of soda counters as well as specialized machinery to make them. The soda counter was the precursor to the mall, becoming the epicenter of hanging out for bands of young people. Technology was there to meet this demand for ice cream socialization. The 1930′s brought milkshake technology to next level status with freon cooled ice cream dispesers and Multimix milkshake blenders. Ray Croc, founder of McDonalds, was particularly interested in developing high volume milkshake blenders as he saw it as an important part of his menu. Mr. Croc featured milkshakes as a permanent addition to the McDonalds menu, which cemented the drink’s international status in decades to come.
Since Mr. Coulson’s contribution to the expansion of the American waistline in 1922 and Mr. Croc’s cementing it into the burger joint lexicon, there’s been countless variations on the milkshake and malted themes. Wendy’s has the Frosty, a smooth textured chocolate frozen dairy drink. Dairy Queen is home to the Blizzard, a rough hewn milkshake like dessert featuring soft serve ice cream and candy bits. Jack In The Box, purveyor of multiple seasonally themed
dairy monstrosities milkshakes went as far as to create a bacon milkshake. (Ew.) The technically vegetarian 1081 calorie ass-widener doesn’t involve any actual bacon, instead relying on copious amounts of salt and flavorings. From such humble beginnings as the eggy milky whisky drink, the partially frozen ice cream laden milkshake has become a highly customizable staple in the pop culture fabric of America.
Told you that was one hell of a parlay.
Anyways, as we say goodbye to the perpetual teenager known as Mr. Dick Clark, we will have tears in our concrete, cabinet, frosted, velvet, malted, or malt, depending on region or preference. Signing off indeed, Mr. Clark.