There are certain life events that are extremely unimportant in the big scheme of things, but which stand out in one’s memory.
I still vividly remember the day in 1980 that a new color TV was delivered to my family’s home to replace the one that had stopped working months earlier; that one having been our first color set. I was a teen and still recall that it arrived on a Sunday afternoon in late September or early October. I know that because the Eagles lost to the Cardinals in week four of the NFL season that day. It was their first loss after looking great in jumping out to a 3-0 record during a season that would finish with them losing the Super Bowl to the Raiders.*
Today was a similarly momentous day for an equally shallow and inconsequential reason. My new milkshake maker arrived.
My priorities have changed as I’ve gotten older. There is no way a new TV would excite me as much as seeing this box today.
It’s probably been close to 25 years since I bought my first old-school milkshake maker. I have made and drank shakes for most of my life; but until the late 90s, I used an all-purpose blender for that purpose.
The first devoted milkshake-maker that I purchased has likely been the most popular one for those who make the occasional shake at home for many years; the Hamilton Beach Drinkmaster. Mine was a shade of light green that is widely recognized by people who care about such things as the ultimate color for a shake-maker.
Hamilton Beach’s most iconic model was approximately that shade of green and had three spindles. While I’m not sure that it’s still made, there are still many in circulation at old diners, soda fountains and ice cream shops.
Of course, my model, having been designed for home use, only had one spindle and a much weaker motor. Again, I believe Hamilton Beach no longer makes them in that color, but it looked like this.
The motor in that one began to weaken after perhaps 6-8 years of heavy use; just in time for me to include a new one – an Oster model designed for home use this time – in our wedding gift registry. Four friends from a long defunct classical music message board teamed up to purchase it for me. It was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. It’s lasted for 16 glorious years of more heavy usage – I’m sure I’ve mentioned my fondness for milkshakes and malts here once or twice along the way.
But alas, the lower of the two power levels hasn’t been working for the past couple years, and that’s made it hard to achieve the desired level of thickness in my shakes.
I had a couple Amazon gift cards and decided to put them together to buy a new milkshake-maker.
Not surprisingly, Amazon has a huge number of options available; from the most basic models for beginners at home to those with multiple spindles that are intended for professional use. I went with something in between those two extremes; a Hamilton Beach Professional All-Metal Drink Mixer.
Although the word, ‘Professional,’ is in there, it’s not big or strong enough to stand up to the kind of use it would get at a diner or ice cream shop. But it should be great for me.
I wasted very little time in finding out.
Here are the old machine and and the new one placed side-by-side for a sort of ceremonial passing of the milkshake torch.
Then it was time to stop being sentimental and get on with business.
The colder the milk, the better when it comes to making shakes. So after allowing my quart of milk to spend 15-20 minutes in the freezer, I gathered everything I needed to make a black & white malt. As I’ve explained before, that’s the same thing as a chocolate malt in some regions of the country. In my area, a chocolate malt is made with chocolate ice cream. I used vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup, along with a little splash of vanilla syrup and a big, heaping tablespoon of malt powder.
In the booklet that came with the new shake-maker, it is recommended that all syrups and powders be added on top of the milk and ice cream, so that they don’t get stuck at the bottom of the cup.
This new machine has a head that tilts back, making it easier to put the metal cup in place and remove it at the end. It also allows for picking up the cup and moving it around during the mixing process to help move things along. With my two previous machines, that wasn’t possible. The motor automatically shut off as soon as the cup was removed from its designated position.
It also has a stronger motor than the two earlier shake-makers. My malt was finished relatively quickly, and I used the lower of the two settings the entire time. I did stop once to stir up the cup contents and then picked it up and moved it around while the machine was running at the end. But that has probably been done by every person I’ve ever seen make a milkshake at a restaurant or ice cream shop.
The finished product had both a smoother and thicker texture than what I’ve been achieving for at least the past couple years with my old machine. And that was with slightly more milk than I’ll sometimes use when making a shake. It should be possible to make them very thick on there. I’ll find out soon enough.
The only issue was that not all of the malt powder broke down during the mixing process. At least a little of it – clumped into little malt balls – came up in my straw. That should be easily fixable. Rather than follow the advice in the instructions, I’m going to vigorously mix in the malt powder with the milk before adding the ice cream going forward. I’ve always done that with my two older machines and never had a problem. I can still throw in any syrups I use at the end, as instructed.
The era of the Oster has passed. I’m back with Hamilton-Beach and very excited about the milkshake-making years to come.
* The timing of that color TVs arrival actually stands out in my memory for a handful of sports-related accompanying memories in addition to that Eagles game.
We initially had a couple old black & white TVs to watch after the color set went down. But one of those soon gave out, leaving us with one. That led to me missing the NCAA championship game for men’s college basketball. It was the year Louisville defeated Larry Brown’s UCLA team. That may be the only time I haven’t watched at least most of the title game since I was a young child. The culprit was the film, Dr. Zhivago. It’s a big favorite of my mother and just happened to be on another network at the same time as the game. I lost the debate that night and only got to check the score during commercial breaks in the film.
This was also right after the U.S. hockey team upset the Soviets on their way to winning Gold in Lake Placid. We watched those games on that crappy black & white set.
Then that one may have bit the dust too. I say that because I recall that when the Sixers faced the Lakers in the NBA finals that spring, I had to borrow a portable black & white set from relatives who lived around the corner from us to watch at least part of that series.
Incidentally, those games, or at least the ones that were played during the week in Los Angeles, were not broadcast in prime time by CBS. They started after 11:30 p.m. Eastern time, which was prime time in L.A. I woke up very early for high school during that period and must have been exhausted the days after games 1, 2 and 5.
The weekend games were played during the afternoon.
That shows you how far the NBA has come in a little over 40 years. When is the last time one of their Finals games hasn’t been played in prime time on the East Coast?
Fortunately, the new color TV arrived just in time for me to watch the 1980 Phillies’ amazing postseason run, which culminated in the team’s first World Series title.