Carl’s Jr.’s Banana Chocolate Chip Hand-Scooped Ice Cream Shake™ Is Literally the Worst Thing I’ve Ever Tasted
For those of you who haven’t tasted the ventral side of an unwashed perineum or the stuff that leaks out of batteries when they’re really old, it will be difficult for anybody to liken the bouquet and flavor profile Carl’s Jr. Banana Chocolate Chip Hand-Scooped Ice Cream Shake™ to any other dining experience you may have previously had. With that said, the CJBCCHSICS™ tastes like shit.
You may ask, why would somebody like myself, a chocolate milkshake purist, order a dessert beverage, much less be in a Carl’s Jr., one of the lowest rated milkshakes in the Brohemian Kitchen’s sesquicentennial fast food milkshake power rankings. I have stayed up many nights since questioning my decisions but I think it had something to do with setting. I was on a road trip from SF to LA and our car stopped at the Coalinga exit. For the unfamiliar, Coalinga is the home of Harris Ranch, a gigantic factory farm that was once called Cowschwitz (thus offending those affected by the holocaust and humorists alike). About 4 miles before the “farm” you can already smell the sickly, unwashed animal bodies creeping into your car. You will check to make sure the AC is circulating internal air only and then realize the smell of a poorly maintained zoo is seeping through the tiny cracks between the superbly engineered parts of the Korean car you’re driving. The smell was so overpowering I was essentially driving under the influence of methane, so getting off the freeway seemed a logical conclusion. And because I was fucked up on cow manure fumes, hitting up the closest fast food joint was in order.
Once I was in the store, I was simply drawn to the shake for reasons I can’t explain. Deep-fried bananas are good, I guess? I recently reread Gravity’s Rainbow, whose first 10 pages are dominated by descriptions of bananas grown in a rooftop greenhouse in WW2 London, and whose motifs include paranoia and Pavlonian behavioral conditioning. For some reason I was that salivating Doberman and would settle for nothing but the enigmatic CJBCCHSICS™.
I did not immediately succumb to my urges. The shake and I actually circled one another for a few minutes in an elaborate pre-fight dance before I ordered. In an attempt to be the more demure of the combatants, the first thing I ordered was a grilled cheeseburger combo meal with Mr. Pibb (amazingly watered down), but about two bites into the imitation Texas toast I knew I was going to have to look the basilisk directly in the eyes. I went back to the counter, placed my order, and awaited my fate. The milkshake’s trainer, a glassy-eyed woman whose name I didn’t catch, made a flashy show of scooping the ice cream, making good on the shake’s declaration of being ‘Hand-Scooped.’
Have you ever picked up a keg at BevMo for a party and while waiting for the store manager, who is invariably named Brent or Todd, to authorize your papers, you spot those little 99 cent shooter bottles of mystery liqueurs? There are fancy ones with bottles designed to look like baby versions of their adult counterparts (e.g. Jagermeister) but there are also white label budget ones that are kindred spirits off-brand bagged cereal. Well, I have a bad habit of impulse purchasing about ten of these each time I wait for my keg papers to pass through BevMo customs so I can ‘bequeath’ them to my proto-blackout friends. I always choose the worst flavors I can find and majority of the time that means banana, which BevMo has the audacity to name ‘Banana Schnapps Liqueur’ as if fucking Norman Rockwell painted a poster for the Saturday Evening Post of a group of middle-aged white guys by a fireplace at a holiday party enjoying impish sips of a toasty ‘schnapps.’
The CJBCCHSICS™ tastes like those 99 cent shooters, but worse, and mixed with fucking dairy. The chocolate chips suspended throughout are slightly less dry than playground tanbark and taste about the same. The whipped topping (I don’t think they are legally allowed it ‘cream’ when it’s 90% potato starch and dandruff) gets crusty the second it hits the air so it tastes more like a meringue than anything else. Needless to say I took two exploratory sips, gagged, took another two masochistic sips, gagged, took yet another nihilistic sip (maybe it’s all just a cosmic joke), threw up a little in my mouth, and then tossed the thing. To get rid of the aftertaste I pounded a large McDonald’s chocolate shake, which tasted like hand-whipped ganache after what I had endured.
The experience was so scarring I decided to research more about this dish. The Carl’s Jr. website navigates like an MC Escher lithograph but I finally found a page with nutritional information for the CJBCCHSICS™. On paper this shake is like any other. I will commend Carl’s Jr. for crafting a dessert for the health-conscious weightlifter (0g trans fat and 15g protein), but they lose points for only having 1g of dietary fiber. Considering the velocity with which a fast food milkshake can pass through the GI tract, you’d think Carl and co. would have recognized the need to slow down digestion for maximum nutrient uptake.
The allergen details are pretty standard, so I’ll skip over that but the ingredients are where it’s at. If you click on the link for PDF information about ingredients you’re redirected to a generic document that doesn’t contain ingredients unique to this drink. I took this as my cue to email customer support, which turned out to be a very pleasant experience. I received prompt and clear responses from two different services representatives who sent me individual PDFs (last updated 4/18/12) for both nutritional facts and ingredients. The ingredient list reads like an advanced organic chemistry textbook and even organizes listed ingredients by component (e.g. banana cream syrup, whipped topping, etc.). Among some of my favorites:
- “Locust Bean Gum, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan” (thickeners)
- “Cocoa Processed with Alkali” (smart people think this removes the only positive of chocolate: antioxidants)
- “Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (preservatives)”
- “Sorbitan Monostearate, Disodium Phosphate, Hexaglyceryl Distearate” (?)
- “Propellant: Nitrous Oxide” (what percentage of Carl’s Jr. employees have done whip-its during work hours?)
Just about the only thing not present in the ingredient list is alcohol, which is the one element that would have made the experience bearable.
A month or so removed from this dining experience, I am struck by how clearly it was the worst thing I had ever tasted in my short life. That includes volume-booting after basement rugby parties and pig rectum. It was similar to seeing the movie “The Aviator,” and later, “Australia.” There is a frightening sense of the unheimlich, the uncanny, that makes you think ‘this is so bad it can’t be real’, but then then you realize you aren’t trapped in some fucked-up dreamspace limbo where left is right and throw-up is running down your chin. Not only is this flavor creation real, but an entire corporation thought it was a good idea to develop and distribute this product. I’m talking like market research and shit. FOCUS GROUPS. Somewhere out there, people actually like this, and that’s what scares me most of all.