Et tu, Arby's?

Growing up, I didn't eat a lot of fast food.  I remember going to Hardee's one time when I was about ten and ordering a "plain old hamburger," not realizing that they would make one for me Special.  Completely plain.  No ketchup or anything.  I obviously didn't understand the ordering process.  At any rate, my parents didn't let us have fast food frequently.  And, while that's a good thing (not to mention alliterative), back then it felt like a Bad Thing.  There was one Item that my parents let us have Very Occasionally.  And this, friends, was the masterpiece that is (was) The Jamocha Shake at Arby's.  A sweet, creamy concoction that tasted vaguely of chocolate and coffee and was Beige.  I mean this in a Good Way, beige being the color of Subtle, Understated Urbanity.  The Jamocha Shake was, for me, the Pinnacle of Sophistication.  After all, it was a grown-up drink.  It was a Coffee Beverage.  I can still remember how wonderful these guys tasted.

Not overly long ago--maybe about five years or so--The Beloved and I were taking a trip to the mountains of...somewhere.  Anyway, we stopped at an Arby's to have lunch, and I was all I'm'a git a Jamocha Shake!  I was excited about it (you can tell by that exclamation point), because I was about to revisit the Sophistication of my Youth.  When it was ready, I took a big slurp through my straw, and what I got was a mouthful of cold, sweet...chemicals.  ??  I took another sip.  I could kind of taste the chocolate and coffee, but the aftertaste was very chemically and Upsetting.  I threw the rest away.  I was a Very Sad Person.

The bitterness of that moment haunts me To This Day.

I really wanted to believe that a milk shake that tastes of coffee and chocolate was made with some ice cream, some coffee and some chocolate.  I mean, is it wrong to want that?  But, why use real ice cream when some kind of Faux Ice Cream is cheaper to make?  Because Arby's doesn't want to feed us--to offer us nutritious food.  It wants to make money.  And it's not just Arby's.  Look at the ingredients in almost any fast food you can think of, and you will prolly not want to eat it again.  Ever.  But it's cheap, so there you go.  That should be Good Enough for us.

I looked up the current list of ingredients for my once-beloved Jamocha Shake, and this is what I found:

Jamocha Syrup [High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Instant Coffee, Dutch Processed Cocoa, Caramel Color, Salt, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Polyglycerol Esters Of Fatty Acid, Artificial Flavor], Vanilla Shake Mix [Whole Milk, Sugar Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Nonfat Milk, Grade-A Sweet Whey, Cream, Artificial Vanilla Flavor, Mono and Diglycerides, Cellulose Gum, Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Dipotassium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Carbonate, Annatto and Caramel Color]

Just seeing "Jamocha Syrup" and "Vanilla Shake Mix," I might surmise that the syrup contains some water, sugar, coffee and chocolate while the shake mix contains ice cream (cream, milk, salt, sugar, vanilla).  But that would be Foolish.  I mean, when you have such a thing as Polyglycerol Esters of Fatty Acid, why wouldn't you put it in a milkshake?  For those of you who are interested, take a look at this rather dry but telling report on how They determined that the Aforementioned Ingredient is "safe" to ingest.  And then ask yourself why they went to all that expense and trouble.  My answer is that the stuff must be dirt cheap to produce.

So, what other yumminess can be found in the Jamocha Shake?  I see a bunch of different types of gums and a Very Lot of sugars--corn syrup, sugar syrup, and high fructose corn syrup. Twice. Lovely.  And look what our friends at Wikipedia have to say about sodium carbonate:

Sodium carbonate (also known as washing soda, soda crystals or soda ash), Na2CO3, is a sodium salt of carbonic acid. It most commonly occurs as a crystalline heptahydrate, which readily effloresces to form a white powder, the monohydrate; and is domestically well known for its everyday use as a water softener. It has a cooling alkaline taste, and can be extracted from the ashes of many plants. It is synthetically produced in large quantities from table salt in a process known as the Solvay process.

Do yourself a favor and make your own Jamocha Shake.  All you need is some ice cream, a little milk, some coffee, some chocolate syrup, a couple of spoonfuls of sugar (maybe), and a pinch of salt.  And a blender.  Don't worry if you are Unable to Obtain the polyglycerol esters of fatty acid, the various gums or the caramel color.  I guarantee that your shake will be better than a dumb old Arby's shake.

To paraphrase the great Ricky Bobby, "Dear Sweet Baby Jesus in the Manger."  It seems that nothing is sacred.[youtube=]  Yes, I posted the edited version.  If you would like to watch the admittedly hilarious unedited version, you can watch that here.


  1. Opus the Poet says

    I still miss when McDonald’s was real food rather than a chemistry experiment gone wild.

    I bake bread at home but I’m having a hard time finding bread flour in stores locally, and when I do find it the cost is horrendous. And all I can get is white flour, I can never find whole wheat bread flour. The best I can hope for is unbleached flour at a premium price.

  2. says

    My parents had the same attitude with fast food. I remember one time we got to go to McDonalds and after taking one sip of my strawberry shake I dropped it and it oozed all over the floor. Tears welled in my eyes, and I looked up at mom. I thought it was over, my one chance for strawberry shake – gone! But, she took pity on me and got me another one. I haven’t checked up on the ingredients but I imagine it doesn’t look any prettier than the Jamocha Shake.

    Crazy some of the crap that is in our food. Stuff that certainly is causing lots of illnesses and pickling our insides!

    I try not to eat anything from a package and know where my food is coming from. I love the sound or your version of the Jamocha Shake.

  3. says

    For me it was Hawaiian Punch. I lived on that stuff growing up. Then one day, a few years after college I happened to notice it in the grocery store. I bought it, looking forward to a trip down memory lane.

    Nope. Horrible, horrible stuff. And I don’t think it’s just because I had developed a more discerning palate in the intervening years.

  4. says

    Road trips are just about the only occasions when the hubs and I will indulge in fast food (McD’s Filet O’ Fish – don’t hate). Otherwise, my system can no longer handle the copious amounts of oil and I can’t get over how McNuggets come in only 4 distinct shapes that I’m sure do not appear naturally in any chicken physiology.

    However, I’m sorry that a dear childhood memory was crushed. Perhaps we should come up with a natural Jamocha a la Pastry Chef!

  5. says

    Ah, I feel your Jamocha pain.

    I do remember as a kid being excited when McDonalds finally arrived in Ireland. Visits to such places only happened when my parents weren’t looking, though – eating out wasn’t something we did much of at all – but whenever the opportunity did arise, it was the chocolate milkshake that I had in my sights. Goodness knows what they put in it but I certainly thought it was addictive. Not sure I’d think the same now, though…

  6. Jane Field says

    Hi Jenni, Ah, yes, this takes me back to those grand days of yesteryear. Were they really grand?? Love, Mom

  7. alison says

    As Walter Bishop, the eccentric scientist in Fringe, cries out after reading what is in his strawberry toaster tarts, “we are putting death into our bodies, delicious strawberry death.” Well said Walter

  8. Harvey says

    Terrible, just terrible. I wonder what McDonalds use to thicken their shakes. I heard it was plant based but gelatin wouldn’t surprise me even slightly.

    • says

      Yes. Vegetarians definitely need to be careful when eating/drinking fast food. I wouldn’t doubt that they’d use gelatin and then not disclose that fact. Sad indeed, @3ad6a4359c10b356748db8c807e61231:disqus . Thanks for stopping in and for your comment. 🙂


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