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Brain Freeze: Our Panel of Experts Samples New Summer Coolers

Being bored for extended amounts of time builds character. Everyone (kids, in particular) needs to stare at the wall so long that it makes them crazy. Then go outside and stare at the hot grass. Then lie on the floor and throw a ball in the air 100 times. Rinse and repeat all day. I swear, you'll be a better for it in the end. And with that said, by the end of summer I expect my chickens to be chalk full of personality.

But sometimes it's also fun to do stupid things just for the hell of it. When I was a kid, one summer day my friend and I walked to town to eat at every food establishment in the city limits. We lived in a dot on the map, so there were only three places: Dairy Queen, 7-Eleven and a pizza joint. We walked back in complete misery after our banana splits, nachos and pepperoni slices. But, once home, we had a whole new appreciation for being there and being bored.

My theory: An exhausting adventure raises the value of boredom. And vice versa.

So, the first day of our official summer break I got all the chickens in the padded wagon and told them we were going to drive around and try new summer drinks at fast food places, like slushies, malts, shakes, etc. But, the catch was that we would only get ONE of each. And we'd share. They were 100 percent game for it.

Immediately, of course, they started bickering about who gets to drink what first and for how long. It made me want to pull over and pluck some feathers. So, we formed a committee and came up with a policy: Everyone got their own straw and 10 seconds to drink, then they had to pass the drink in a predetermined order until it's gone. May the strongest set of lungs win.

We started at McDonald's for their new McCafé Frozen Strawberry Lemonade. Their billboards promote this new drink as a "sweet Southern belle with a mean right hook." Well, mean right hooks suck no matter the regional attitude. The tartness was overwhelming. Needed sugar. Or rum, maybe. Might not even want to waste the rum. I sense it would make a surly drunk. (The lemonade, not the Southern belle.) It was so bad the chickens each had a turn then left it in the cup holder to melt.

We also got a chocolate shake at MickeyD's. Their chocolate has a very distinctive (weird) taste to me, but it was all right. One chicken thought the Strawberry Lemonade might be better if they drank it simultaneously with the shake. So, they put both straws in their mouth at once and drank the two together. I'm never one to intervene with a harmless life lesson, so I sat quietly while they each followed the leader and tried the same thing -- then wanted to spew it all over the wagon, which was strongly, I mean very strongly, ill advised. But funny.

Then we went to Arby's for their Jamocha Oreo Shake. Holla! The chickens went goofy over this. Olly olly oxen free, come on out, Arby, you win! The tiny pieces of Oreo come up through the straw blended with thick chocolate sauce and ice cream. And "jamocha" means "chocolate with a hint of coffee" in Jamaican. I totally bamboozled the chickens on that part (they hate coffee). They mentioned the flavor, but still guzzled. The 10-second rule was strict this go-round. Chickens are scrappy when they feel cheated. And jamocha was worth fighting for. We were up to our ears in feathers at this point.

Next we pulled into Starbucks and all the chickens went nuts protesting because they knew nothing was in it for them this time. Whatev. Pipe down. Starbucks has this new Coconut Mocha Frappuccino® Blended Beverage. Really, what's with the long-ass names? There should be a name for their long-ass names, like, starbonics. Anyway, I ordered my "thing" while the chickens simmered politely. I had a few swallows and sat there thinking... what is it?'s like...a Mounds bar! Yeah. Put a Mounds in a blender with ice and violá! I wasn't a big fan. And I wouldn't waste rum in it either. Possibly Kahlua. I admittedly went into it with a bad attitude though because it cost $4.75. Dang.

Next was Taco Bell's Strawberry Colada Frutista Freeze. Hands down the best option for rum. Just the right balance of sugar on top of more sugar, and the ice part was very freezey-like. Taco Bell even puts fresh strawberries from their giant garden on the top of each drink. Brain freezes are on high alert with this concoction in hand, but we discovered they can be avoided if you only drink for 10 seconds at a time. See. We learned something new this summer.

On the way home I dropped the chickens off a couple of miles from the house so they could run off all that sugar. When they finally made it home exhausted they had a whole new appreciation for just being there. And being bored.

Oh, Jamaican isn't a language. Ja-joken me, right?

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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.

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