PR's Blog

February 19, 2010

Shamrock Shakes

Filed under: Classics, Cute, Memes, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — perryrobbin @ 4:14 am
Can food be a meme? Certain foods, like apple pie for Americans, or marmite for Kiwis, have cultural significance that transcends the physical existence of the food and make it a symbol of a nation. Certainly “mom, baseball and apple pie” is an enduring, if well-used, meme. Foods that are unique to a state or area or country often serve as a stand-in or a symbol, they carry information about the country they come from. Say poutine and I immediately think La Belle Province (the restaurant and the actual province).

But what about a food that is mass-produced by a multi-national corporation on giant economies of scale? What about shamrock shakes?

Shamrock Shake

it's GREEN

These beauties come around once a year, from mid-February through St. Patrick’s Day, and have inspired a kind of love and devotion far and beyond what is normally extended to most fast food products. A plethora of fan tributes exist online, including fan recipes. One of the most impressive is a user-generated list of where shamrock shakes are available, so know where to get your fix.

Shamrock shakes also have a fictitious history and seasonal availability that feeds into the unique cult around them. Uncle O’Grimacey came to McDonaldland from Ireland to spread the love. The character has not been used recently, but is rumored to be making a comeback, possibly similar to the Burger King‘s re-emergence as a distinct character. Not being able to get shamrock shakes 11 months out of the year makes them that much more desirable.

Uncle O'Grimacey, purveyor of shamrock shakes

These examples provide convincing evidence that shamrock shakes, or the love of shamrock shakes, more specifically, are a meme– they represent a packet of information (the sensory experience of drinking one), this information is shared with others through various means and some of this information (not the actual recipe, but surely the memories associated with shamrock shakes and information about where to find them) mutates.

Parting Advice: Don’t mix peppermint schnapps and shamrock shakes. It sounds like a good time, but the sugary liquor just won’t blend with the milkshake and make a mess.


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