This is one of the sweetest celebration days of all this month as we pay homage to that more than a century old treat, the chocolate milkshake. By the way, totally random bit of info here… Episode #6 of my Sketching Stuff podcast launched this week, so please check it out when you can and leave me a comment at sketchingstuff.com! As for milkshakes, back in the 1920’s, Walgreens took their malted milk recipe and added a couple scoops of ice cream to create a new version of chocolate milk shakes, and this version became known as a malt. The days of drugstore soda fountains are gone now, but you can still find little wonderful places that have preserved those days. Philippe and I went to one a couple of years ago and the experience is still the best milkshake experience on the planet. What I love about those times of the so-called “Soda Jerks,” which now sounds a bit like an insult, was the special lingo that was developed. You might order a chocolate milkshake, but the order would be called out as “one barrel of black mud!” which doesn’t sound nearly as appealing, but I guess served to get the point across and deliver a lovely glass of sugary goodness topped with whipped cream.
Truly, those days had nearly passed entirely by the time I was a kid, but there were still many more places that delivered the true milkshake and soda fountain experience. These days, the soda fountains have all been replaced with coffee shops, delivering a more caffeinated treat, but it’s not the same. Even those are usually large chains so I’ll always choose an independent coffee shop first as well. I don’t like that in all of our technological advancements that we’ve taken the human element out of the equation. Actual people who would take pride in yelling “Dust!” to serve up a bit of malted milk or to “Burn One All the Way!” if you wanted your chocolate malted with chocolate ice cream instead. Language built by workers and artisans who could still feel like they were part of actually making something happen rather than simply pressing a single button. Days where a random invention by a single employee, like a chocolate malt, would actually go to market and make history. I know I’m older and older people tend to fantasize about the past, but in so many ways, I do believe it was actually better than today. I’m not really alone as the younger folks always gravitate toward anything vintage.
Yeah, so vintage was when I was a teenager and what I’m describing probably falls into the category of antique, but it was awesome all the same. I’m thankful each day for our strong maker movement that still celebrates arts and crafts and things made by hand. Each day, somewhere on this world, someone is sitting down to make something new appear, using bits of material and imagination, to create a little masterpiece. When I started this site, I was addicted to drawing and painting with watercolor (still am!), but I admire all types of work made by hand. I cherish the quilts that my grandmother made for me and every little piece of my past that still retains the hand of the artist. So on this magnificent day meant to celebrate a dessert, I will silently cheer on every person who made those incredible hand-dipped ice cream marvels. And feel very happy that I was around in a time where I could still now taste the difference. Maybe it wasn’t the purer ingredients at all, but something more magical. Perhaps, in the end, I was tasting something wholly intangible. The pride of the artisan who made it. Something that can’t quite be replicated by machines, making it the best dessert of all and the best version of chocolate milkshake day.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Aureolin, Vermilion, and Indigo. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!