Food

WATCH: Giant Milkshakes Take NYC by Storm... in the Middle of the Winter?

Getting to the bottom of why people would wait two hours for a $15 milkshake.

With New York just digging out from Snowmaggedon 2016 and finally fully engulfed in winter chill, the last thing one would expect to get a boost in sales are frozen treats. But that’s exactly what’s happening, as massive milkshakes are taking the city by storm.

While many might scoff at the $15 price tag, New Yorkers have been known to buy $10 lattes. They’re also used to waiting in lines, so the sometimes two-hour-long wait is just another opportunity to check email and get some work done while their nearly foot-tall candy-laden confections are being constructed.

Images of the gargantuan milkshakes — the creation of chef Joe Isidori, owner of the Manhattan restaurant Black Tap — have spread across social media like wildfire, quickly becoming part of a growing genre of photography that includes other mammoth meals like 48-ounce burgers at Astoria's Sweet Spot Restaurant, 30-pound burritos at Park Slope's Don Chignon and 50-ounce steaks at Williamsburg's St. Anselm's. (After all, New York City isn't known as the Small Apple.)

But why ice cream in winter? Though it night not make sense to gulp down something cold as the mercury drops, the science actually says otherwise. Neuroscientist Peter Poortvliet from the University of Queensland offers some clarity:

Metabolism is necessary to keep our bodies functioning correctly. It includes digestive processes involved in breaking down nutrients in food, the absorption and transportation of those nutrients to the cells, and their conversion into building blocks or energy necessary for physical activity. The heat this generates is beneficial when it’s cold, but when outside temperatures rise, we need to avoid overheating. While it may seem logical that introducing something cold, like ice cream, into the stomach should help reduce temperature, its initial cooling effect is rapidly replaced by heat generated by digestive processes needed to break down the nutrients in ice cream. Digesting calorie-rich food leads to an increase in body temperature.

And there you have it: Eating ice cream in winter actually helps warm the body — and soothes the savage sweet tooth.

But how did Isidori first concoct his collosal confections? "One day my wife wanted me to make her a cotton candy milkshake, so I whipped something up, put it on Instagram and the rest is history," he said. “Milkshakes are our Instagram sensation.”

The mountainous milkshake trend also nudges up against another trend: infantilization. But instead of college students who, as former Barnard College president Judith Shapiro suggested, “are now in the habit of seeking formal institutional support and approval for the kinds of activities they used to be capable of managing themselves,” these frozen treats might simply be a delicious way to tap into a time long-gone, when food was far less conflicted than it is today. Think of it as the milkshake you dreamed of as a child.

Isidori’s milkshake vision may in fact be tied to his inner child. “I’m a New York kid, and I’m here to feed New York," he said. "That’s my job.”

Black Tap currently offers three main specialty milkshakes at its two locations in Manhattan. 

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