Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why sometimes a person just gives up and goes to Starbucks

Recently I decided there is no excuse for someone who works at home, with a full kitchen, to go out to Starbucks in the afternoon for a chocolate banana smoothie. However, the chocolate banana smoothie, which is under 300 calories, is a pretty healthy afternoon snack. So the plan was to figure out to make the same thing at home.

The first obstacle was that I don't have a blender. We threw out the blender when the kitchen was being remodeled. It was a new blender that I had bought after careful research of reviews from trusted sources, which, when it arrived in the mail, I discovered had a glass container that weighed about a hundred pounds. And which didn't always screw onto its bottom properly, resulting in its liquid contents spilling out the bottom all over the blender base. There was absolutely nothing good about this blender. So when faced with the prospect of finding someplace to store it during the remodeling, I jumped at the chance to throw the damn thing out.

Now, I do have a stick blender, which I bought as a replacement, not being willing to buy another stand blender after that traumatic experience, and thinking it would take up less space and be useful for blending things without dirtying another container. It turns out that is great for things that are already being prepared in some kind of container, but stinks for making drinks because you can't really put it in a drink glass. It might work if we bought the right kind of container to use it in, but at the point of considering that, it becomes clear that what we need is a regular blender.

So, first I went out and bought a blender.

Then, I went to Whole Foods to find a chocolate protein shake mix. There's one made with soy, but sometimes soy milk gives me a stomachache. So I looked at the other, made with whey protein. WTF. They sell this at a store called "WHOLE foods"? There appears to be no entire food anywhere in this product. There was also that warning that they put on aspartame, although I couldn't find aspartame in the ingredients. I got no idea what's going on here with micro-filtering whey and having to warn phenylketonurics not to eat the stuff, but no way I am buying it.

So I decided, if the alternative was something that started with milk and then processed it beyond recognition, why not just make the thing with milk?

OK, fine. I have milk. Now I just need a way to make it chocolate flavored. So I go look at the chocolate milk powders. To make a long story about factory ingredients and the quality of chocolate short, it turns out that the only one that I find acceptable is made of just cocoa and sugar.

Well, I have cocoa and sugar at home. So never mind buying that product either. Now remember, real cocoa powder does not dissolve in cold milk unless processed in a factory, so using real cocoa means that I am going to have to make a paste of cocoa, hot water and sugar every time I make a shake. Or else find a recipe for cooking that into a syrup that will keep a little while.

Then I go buy some bananas. Which reminds me, there's this other whole problem which is that to me, bananas are only at an acceptable stage of ripeness for about five minutes. OK, for a shake, I'll eat them a little riper, so they might be OK for about a day. What are the odds that when I want a shake, A, I will have bananas, and B, they will be exactly ripe enough? Yeah.

So, chances are, every time I want a shake, I will have to go to the store to buy a banana. Then I will have to make a paste of cocoa and sugar, then I can put all that stuff in the blender. Then I have to wash the blender, and all the equipment that I used to cut the banana, make the cocoa paste, etc.

There is no way that it will be faster to go across the street, buy a perfectly ripe banana at Whole Foods - assuming they have one that day - and come home and do all of that, than it would be to walk another block and wait on line at Starbucks for a shake in the afternoon when they are usually not busy. It's also unclear when, factoring in the cost of the blender, it will start being cheaper to make it at home. I don't have the energy left to try to do the calculation, even if I knew exactly how many tablespoons of cocoa I am going to want to use and so on.

I give up. Some things are best left to a professional.

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