When Aaron and I lived in New York and there was a Starbucks on every block, I rarely went a sunny day without slurping down a Frappuccino. Some days, if it was hot and I passed enough other people with green straws in their mouths, I might even treat myself to two within a single day. When the cooler weather came, the Frappuccino lost its appeal (and I switched to peppermint mochas), but as soon as the snow began to melt, I was back in line, wallet in hand, salivating in anticipation of that first sweet and freezy sip.
My orders started out modestly enough: usually just a Tall Coffee Frappuccino or, if I was feeling indulgent, a Tall Mocha Frappuccino, “no whipped cream”. At some point the Tall stopped doing it for me and I switched to Grande. Then I began to “forget” to ask for the whipped cream to be left off— I’d poke my straw in just enough to get a mouthful of creaminess, then chase it down with icy coffee confection …. mmmmmmm.
When the Java Chip Frappuccino debuted, I had to give it a try: Wow! It was even MORE chocolaty! And MORE coffee-ish! And it had little chewy flecks of ACTUAL CHOCOLATE! AND chocolate sauce drizzled on top of the cloud of whipped cream! And this is how, little by little, my regular order devolved until I was basically drinking milkshakes every day, up to a dozen in a single week if my dog-walking business found me with extra cash in my pocket.
I consider myself a health-conscious person. I really do. I have a longstanding love of vegetables and daily exercise. I actually like the taste of raw tofu. Fried foods and pastries do not tempt me. However, as anyone who has lived with me or made the mistake of storing ice cream in a freezer I have access to will attest: I can put away an ungodly amount of ice cream. If there is ice cream in a house, I will work diligently, day-by-day, hour-by-our, until it has all been consumed… in my teens I was so dedicated to the cause of ice cream elimination that I once downed two pints of Ben and Jerry’s midway between two-a-day field hockey practices. Yet, even I would stop short of drinking milkshakes every single day for months at a time. It doesn’t matter how much you exercise and how much fresh produce you eat, daily milkshake consumption cannot be justified as a part of a healthy lifestyle. The trouble was, I was still categorizing Frappuccinos as “coffee” and, to my mind, coffee is a perfectly acceptable daily habit for a responsible and healthy adult.
My epiphany came our second summer in Central Pennsylvania. I stopped in at the local Starbucks on my way home from teaching dog-training classes at PetCo. It was a hot day and the line was long. I didn’t mind waiting, giving myself a little pause between work and resuming the role of “Mama”; Aaron and I used to trade off weekend days, each working half a day, exchanging the car for baby midday. However, the guy in front of me was making the wait a lot less enjoyable. He was probably not morbidly obese, but he was definitely headed in that direction, with a sizeable “heart attack belly” spilling over his shorts (which required both a belt and suspenders to stay up). Look, I’m no fatist. I am sincere when I tell my kids that bodies are beautiful in many different shapes and sizes. Given the choice, I’d always rather be fit than skinny. Nevertheless, I would be lying if I pretended I was not repulsed by this man. His body odor mingled with the stale fry smell of the McDonald’s bag in his hand. He was wearing an offensive pro-life t-shirt, something along the lines of, “There’s a special place in Hell for ‘doctors’ who MURDER BABIES”. And, worse of all, his fungal feet were jammed into FitFlops… just like me. Sure, mine were maybe slightly more feminine with their gold sparkly beading on top, while his were plain black, but they had the same shape, the same thick cushy sole. We were basically footsie twins, this large, odiferous french fry-eating man and me, bedecked with dog hair, my Petco nametag still crookedly affixed to my oversized collared shirt. I nearly left before anyone could make the connection, but we were nearing the front of the line so I stuck it out, silently chastising myself for my vanity and bigotry.
Mr. Suspenders leaned on the counter, laboriously garrulous with the barista, oblivious to the plight of us caffeine-starved masses behind him. And then he placed his order: “I’ll take a Venti Java Chip Frappuccino, extra whipped cream.”
Okay, so I never went as far as to order extra whipped cream, but otherwise, that was going to be my order exactly. There was no way around it: that repulsive man and I had more than just our footwear in common. When it came to Frappuccinos, I was him and he was me.
“Next in line? May I take your order?”
I was up. I hesitated only an instant, “Tall iced coffee, please.”
“Room for cream?”
“No, thanks… just black coffee and ice. Yep. That’s all for me!”
“Nope, just the coffee… well, and some madeleines, too… to share with my kid… who’s at home right now, but I’m going to bring them to him, right now, so anyway, that’s all for me.”
When I got home, I looked up the nutrition info for Frappuccinos: a Venti Java Chip with whipped cream has 580 calories, 21 grams of total fat, 14 grams of sat fat. For a person my size, that’s a pretty high percentage of my daily recommended calorie intake to be blowing on a single beverage.
I had to face the facts: FRAPPUCCINOS ARE MILKSHAKES.
It was a several days, maybe even a week, before I found myself back at the Starbucks. I had been out hiking with four dogs and Baby Wyatt and on the way home, it was as if my car was driving itself: I passed right by our neighborhood and kept going down the road to who knows where? Oh, look! There’s the Starbucks. How about that? This time, I chose the drive-through. I changed my mind about my order fifty times as I inched along but in the end, I settled into my old groove with a Java Chip Frappuccino [read: milkshake], oh, sure, go ahead and give me the whipped cream.
The first hit was bliss. Oh, Frappuccino, how I’d missed you! But like rekindling an old flame only to remember why you’d broken up in the first place, the fleeting pleasure of that sip was not enough to mask the depressing truth: as far as milkshakes go, Frappuccinos are mediocre at best. From that point forward, I made a pledge to myself: I would drink coffee when I wanted coffee, and I would have a milkshake—a real milkshake—when I wanted a treat.
My name is Lindsey, and I have been Frappuccino-free for almost seven years, with only a very occasional lapse, maybe once or twice every year or so, usually on a long drive when I’m nodding at the wheel and a Starbucks billboard beckons to me siren-like from the side of the highway. In those cases, I enjoy my Java Chip Frappuccino® Blended Beverage for what it is: a somewhat satisfying, synthetically-fabricated, trademarked, overly sweetened, sorry excuse for a milkshake… with caffeine and a green straw.
Yessiree, things are much, much better now. No more Star$$ for me. The green straw is no longer a trigger. I save my money and my health by making my own delicious pour-over coffee every day at home. I drink the first cup hot and black and chill the rest in mason jars in the fridge in case I want a caffeine bump later in the day. If I want a treat badly enough to get all the kids dressed and shod and out the door and dump down $12 for scoops of gelato for everyone, well then, I do (although I make the kids earn it by helping me clean the house first).
So, anyway, that’s the story of how I ditched the Frappuccino and (almost) never looked back. Now, excuse me while I nip off to the store: it’s time for my iced coffee and we are all out of sweetened condensed milk.