The Last Best Milkshake
I've discovered the best milkshake on earth, but I'm afraid you'll never have one. I could reveal all of the details – that it's real strawberry and frozen yogurt, made by Freshens – but it wouldn't matter.You still wouldn't be me, sitting in the cafeteria of George Washington University Hospital, just after your mother came out of brain surgery.
People often associate events or periods in their life with certain foods. Home cooks and professional chefs spend great effort trying to recreate grandma's roast chicken or mama's ravioli. Not only are the dishes delicious, but they conjure fond sentiments and memories. There's much attention given to these nostalgic meals (just look at how Anton Ego is converted in Ratatouille). But what is rarely mentioned are ordinary foods that are made remarkable by experience.Such meals are wonderful in the way soggy airport pizza is wonderful after you've been flying for hours, subsisting on peanuts.
This milkshake falls into that category of amazing, ordinary food. On another day it would just be a milkshake, albeit a pretty good one. But under the circumstances, it was the best milkshake of my life. After weeks of excruciating headaches, my normally healthy mother had a brain aneurysm removed. It could have proved fatal if left to grow. I've been extremely fortunate to have a full-time mom who is always my first call for advice, help or just wonderful company. She is my mom, my dearest friend and the constant in my life. The prospect of losing her to either a serious affliction or serious surgery was terrifying. But she has a tough will for someone so sweet, and made it through. Although the future held more tests and treatments, the present seemed stable for the first time in days. The milkshake was sweet, and cold, and perfect.
These extra-ordinary food moments are rare, and I've only experienced a handful. I was eating a Thomas' cinnamon raisin bagel when the news came that I got in early-admission to Middlebury College. No bagel, not even the fresh ones from H&H on 80th, has tasted as wonderful since. Rosemary Chicken Lean Cuisines were divine for a time, only because I was working my first kitchen job in St. John. I'd come home blissfully happy and exhausted, with just enough energy to unwrap and microwave. And then there was a slimy, monstrous Carnegie Deli corned beef sandwich that I remember fondly. It was 3 am, I was 20 and completely in love with a boy and New York for the first time.
And now there's this milkshake. It was like a great book – I was sorry to finish it. But unlike my mother's salad dressing (which I still can't replicate), I'm happy to never eat it again. I pray the restless hours in hospitals – even ones that can turn sick patients healthy and average milkshakes extraordinary – are over.