Consider the milkshake.
It seems almost quaint now to recall a time when, not too long ago, the humble dairy beverage was most commonly associated with a certain duck and one of the catchiest songs to rule the airwaves in the early aughts. Recently, however, it’s taken on a new identity: milkshakes as a form of dissent.
After a series of incidents in which anti-fascist protesters have hurled milkshakes at right-leaning British political figures, from prominent Brexiter Nigel Farage to far-right U.K. Independence Party candidate for European Parliament Carl Benjamin to anti-Muslim activist Tommy Robinson, the ice cream drink has become a symbol of the resistance. To throw one is nonviolent, but the results are humiliating; press charges against the thrower (which many have), and you look like a fragile and bratty fool. And in bad news for conservative politicians, milkshaking — as it’s known — has made it stateside. Two Saturdays ago, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz was milkshaked in Florida, making it a global phenomenon.
There’s a long history of incorporating food into political protest (Boston Tea Party, anyone?), with written record dating all the way back to the early-’60s CE, when Vespasian, a proconsulate in Africa and a future emperor of Rome, was apparently so unpopular for his economic policies that he was pelted with turnips by the local populace. Although this time-honored tradition has never truly fallen out of fashion, recent years have seen a resurgence in the hurling of foodstuff — particularly eggs, like the one wielded by the teenager known as “Egg Boy,” who cracked one on the head of an Australian politician who blamed immigration for the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand — and now we’ve arrived at milkshakes.
So how exactly does a person choose the perfect food for a protest? Mind you, this isn’t something we recommend you do — lobbing food at someone could constitute battery or assault — but it’s worth considering what makes a good food projectile, whether you’re on the giving or receiving end. Or maybe you’re like us and what you really want is simply to learn. (On a completely unrelated note, here is Eater London’s map of the best milk-based drinks in London.)
I’ve considered a list of historic protest foods and ranked them using the following criteria:
Convenience: How easy is it to acquire and carry this object without suspicion?
Cost: Will hurling this object be the real-life equivalent of the “money with wings” emoji?
Accuracy: How precise of a projectile does this object make, taking into consideration properties like drag, gravity, thrust, and lift?
Messiness: Does the object splatter, stain, or otherwise necessitate cleanup that’s a pain in the ass?
Smell: How much will the physical memory of the act linger in the nostrils, following the target the rest of the day like an unfriendly ghost?
Symbolic or historical resonance: Does the object represent something greater, or reference a long tradition of throwing said object?
Humiliation: While admittedly ambiguous, this last attribute can be summed up as: “You know it when you see it.”
Convenience: Widely available and can fit in a pocket or cradled unobtrusively in one’s hand. Comes with the risk of breaking and ruining one’s own clothes.
Cost: Typically inexpensive, unless the thrower springs for the pricier free-range or organic varieties, which it’s highly possible this particular Whole Foods egg chucker did.
Accuracy: With its aerodynamic oval shape and a fluid interior that pitches the center of gravity forward with momentum, eggs can be thrown with a good degree of accuracy.
Messiness: Delivers an archetypal splat. Even messier if it gets in one’s hair.
Smell: Fairly inoffensive, unless it’s rotten — which may suit a thrower’s purposes even better, who knows?
Symbolic or historical resonance: The Guardian calls egging “Britain’s most traditional form of protest,” stemming back to prisoners in the stocks getting pelted with eggs in the Middle Ages, and Elizabethan actors getting facefuls of rotten eggs from displeased theatergoers. Since then, there have been so many high-profile eggings of political figures (and other famous people), there’s a whole Wikipedia section dedicated to it. Some highlights include:
- The 1917 egging of Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes, which Vice reports directly led to the creation of the Commonwealth Police Force (the present-day Australian Federal Police).
- In 2004, Ukrainian presidential candidate and premier Viktor Yanukovych was hit by what government officials claimed was a brick. He immediately grimaced, collapsed, and was rushed to the hospital — only for everyone to find the object was just an egg. Cue the endless mockery and ridicule.
- So many Brits, as Vice details: John Prescott, David Cameron, Edward Miliband, Nigel Farage, Jeremy Corbyn, etc.
- Americans, too! Per Vice, Richard Nixon “was egged in three different decades, in at least three different countries.” Bill Clinton famously responded to a 2001 egging by laughing, taking off his egg-streaked jacket, and “saying it was good for young people to be angry about something.”
Symbolically, there’s something to be said here about having “egg on your face.”
Humiliation: Medium-high. Powerful politicians being brought down by a small object that came from a chicken’s undercarriage is, in a word, humbling.
Convenience: Given the ubiquity of fast-food chains, it’s pretty easy these days to get one’s hands on a milkshake. Plus, passersby sipping on a shake is fairly inconspicuous compared to holding cartons of eggs in broad daylight — at least until the latest milkshake mania. Now, milkshakes are being treated with such suspicion that police recently asked an Edinburgh McDonald’s not to sell the beverage when frequent shake target Nigel Farage was in town, and Farage reportedly refused to disembark from a bus when he saw two men standing nearby holding milkshakes. Maybe they were just on a 1950s throwback date?
Cost: Depending on the location and the artisanal quality of the product, a shake could cost anywhere from $4 to $10 or more (can you imagine getting hit with one of these gravity-defying, cavity-inducing bad boys?).
Accuracy: The heft and container makes this a pretty accurate projectile, although it may leave a viscous trail in its wake. Bystanders, beware!
Messiness: Sticky, goopy splatter aside, have you ever tried to remove the yellowish-white stain left over on a shirt from spilt (or thrown) milk? Milk — and all its forms, including shakes — contains fat and protein, which can adhere to fabric and be tough to remove (chocolate milkshake stains can be even harder to get rid of, thanks to cocoa powder’s dark-colored tannins). By hurling a shake, a thrower may very well be guaranteeing an expensive dry-cleaning bill.
Smell: Quite good.
Symbolic or historical resonance: In the U.K., “milkshakes have replaced eggs as the protest projectile of choice,” Dan Kaszeta wrote recently for the Atlantic, following a few weeks of non-stop “milkshaking” directed at right-leaning political figures. According to experts interviewed by the New Statesman, there are multiple ways to read into the milkshake as a symbol: an object of youthful fun wielded against bullying bigots; an “everyman” choice enjoyed by the masses; a subversion of the alt-right’s seizure of milk as a symbol of white supremacy.
In all likelihood, though, the first milkshake that was thrown — at Tommy Robinson, in early May, twice in two days — was simply out of convenience and spontaneous outrage. Sometimes, as Kaszeta wrote, “a milkshake is just a milkshake.”
Convenience: Convenient if the thrower is dealing with self-contained, single-serving, plastic cups — what Vice has called “perfect, portable, yogurt bombs.” Inconvenient if wielding a larger container, or dealing purely with container-less, gloppy handfuls of the stuff.
Cost: Like eggs, the cost depends on where the thrower’s tastes lie on the bougie spectrum. Have you seen the price of Siggi’s these days?
Accuracy: Assuming the thrower has chosen a small plastic cup, relatively accurate — that’s a compact little package, right there.
Messiness: Splatters upon impact, so… messy! Similar to milkshakes, may also leave a stain.
Smell: An initially pleasant scent that can quickly turn sour if left out in the heat for too long.
Symbolic or historical resonance: The Greeks have an official name for the act of throwing yogurt at someone (usually unpopular political figures) as a form of protest: yaourtoma. According to Scientific American, this practice originated among the Greek “Teddy Boys” (a British subculture of rebellious — and fascist — male youths who listened to rock ’n’ roll, dressed like Edwardian dandies, and often acted violently toward immigrants and black people) of the 1950s. Per Vice, the popularity of yaourtoma was accelerated by the increasing availability of plastic yogurt containers instead of ceramic. The practice eventually became such a menace that, in 1958, the Greek government introduced a law that allowed police to arrest youngsters caught throwing yogurt and other foods at their elders (that law was later repealed in the ’80s).
In recent years, the Greek financial crisis has sparked a fresh wave of yaourtoma: here’s Athens police being struck by yogurt and stones, the deputy prime minister getting hit with yogurt, and a Greek news anchor being pelted with yogurt and eggs.
Humiliation: Slightly lower than its dairy cousin the milkshake; there’s somehow more dignity to yogurt. Let’s say a medium amount of humiliation.
Convenience: Not very convenient. There is no subtle way to carry a whole pie perched on one’s palm to throw at the ready.
Cost: The budget version of a throwable pie is a paper plate covered in a layer of whipped cream (or shaving cream). On the high end of the spectrum, you’re looking at something like $40 for a gorgeous, spring-themed meringue pie. You could make one yourself, but do you really want to bake your love and labor into something for Rupert Murdoch?
Accuracy: With a large circumference and a good center of gravity, pies are not likely to miss their target, especially at close range.
Messiness: Depends on the type of pie. For the messiest results, the traditional custard pie or a sticky, leaky, fruit-filled pie may be best.
Smell: The sweet, fresh-baked aroma dreams are made of.
Symbolic or historical resonance: Pieing has its roots in slapstick comedy like The Three Stooges; the first known on-screen pieing was in the 1909 film Mr. Flip, according to the Atlantic. It wasn’t until 1970 that pieing started to become a political statement, when High Times editor and journalist Thomas King Kincade threw a pie at the chairman of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography in protest of censorship. Since then, pies have continued to be wielded for comedic, recreational, and protest purposes, with a fun-loving World Custard Pie Throwing Championship existing in the same world as militant pie-throwing organizations such as the Biotic Baking Brigade and Al Pieda.
Humiliation: After decades of watching pranksters pie each other on screen, you would think we would now be inured to the indignity of getting a faceful of custard — but no, it’s still funny (there’s a reason it’s a comedy classic). The act of real-world pieing makes classic buffoons out of political figures, flattening them into little more than cartoon clowns.
Convenience: VERY inconvenient. A thrower cannot trust takeout boxes or Tupperware to open at the correct angle upon impact, so the only acceptable option is to seize saucy spaghetti by the fistful and fling, thereby leaving the thrower with an identifiably messy hand.
Cost: If home-cooked with the cheapest dried pasta and jarred tomato sauce, the cost is somewhere around a few dollars, excluding the time and labor of standing at the stove boiling pasta water. Takeout spaghetti from a restaurant could range anywhere from $10 to several times that.
Accuracy: Spaghetti is not the most reliable projectile across long distances — inevitably, strands will disentangle from the clump and perhaps pinwheel in another direction, disrupting what could have been a smooth and seamless arc through the air and hitting innocent bystanders.
Messiness: With the pasta itself fuss free, it’s the sauce that holds the greatest mess potential. Tomato-based sauce, just like tomatoes, can badly stain clothes; grease in the sauce compounds that. But for an even bigger mess, here’s an elevated option for all you gourmands out there: squid ink spaghetti. Black pasta plus black sauce equals big stain.
Symbolic or historical resonance: In 2014, Ukrainians were photographed hanging spaghetti and squirting ketchup on the gates of the Russian consulate in Odessa. As Bon Appetit reported, in Ukrainian and Russian, the expression “to hang noodles over someone’s ears” means “to pull someone’s leg” — so this was effectively a protest against the Russian media’s questionable coverage of the Ukrainian crisis.
Humiliation: Being caught with saucy clumps of noodles hanging over one’s eyes like makeshift bangs… I don’t know what to tell you. It’s very funny and very humiliating.
Convenience: Is it a sign of where we are nutritionally that it’s not more common to see people walking around on the street eating fresh produce, aside from bananas and apples? Fruits and vegetables are, generally speaking, not the most convenient foods to eat or prepare on the go, and their scarcity and high costs in food deserts compared to processed foods means entire communities lack meaningful access to healthy foods. Maybe one day, fresh produce will cost less, and it will be less conspicuous for protesters to carry single tomatoes in their hands.
Cost: Again, more expensive than it should be. For hurling purposes, reach for the bin of lower-priced, bruised, blemished, or otherwise just-past-fresh varieties of produce (even hypothetically speaking, please take care not to throw rock-hard apples or turnips that could absolutely take someone out). Vendors at farmers markets may cut even better deals at the end of the day so they can get rid of overripe produce that has been sitting under the hot sun for hours.
Accuracy: Tomatoes, for one, make for excellent projectiles, with good weight and a decently aerodynamic shape.
Messiness: Overripe tomatoes have a great splat factor. Other produce may too, if they are appropriately mushy.
Smell: Produce throwers may want to maximize for stench by picking overripe or rotting fruits and vegetables that, in addition to being squishy enough to splat, are nose-pinchingly pungent.
Symbolic or historical resonance: For as long as humankind has grown produce, humankind has thrown produce. The flinging of overripe tomatoes commonly been associated with protesting terrible theatrical performances, starting from at least 1883, when the New York Times reported on an actor, John Ritchie, who had been “demoralized by tomatoes.” More recent examples of produce throwing include French farmers unions, who dumped produce on the street and threw apples at riot police in 2014; a mass tomato-throwing protest in Amsterdam in response to Russia’s ban on importing food from the European Union; and annually in the Valencian town of Buñol for La Tomatina, a free-for-all food fight in which participants flings tomatoes at each other purely for fun.
Humiliation: Somehow, the knowledge that there’s an entire festival dedicated to recreational produce throwing dampens the humiliation factor. Low to medium humiliation.
Convenience: A bit inconvenient, to tell the truth; sacks of flour are both unwieldy and heavy. The move has historically been to scoop smaller amounts into fragile containers such as paper bags, very thin paper towels, balloons, or condoms.
Cost: The most generic all-purpose flour is very inexpensive. One could buy a sack, skim some off to throw, and use the rest to bake multiple pies, for eating or tossing, all for just a few dollars.
Accuracy: If flung by the handful across long distances, a small breeze may be all it takes to reroute the flour from the target, making this without a doubt a short-range projectile. Throwers can have greater control and accuracy by forming smaller contained parcels, as mentioned above.
Messiness: The initial point of contact may be messy, but all in all, flour is fairly easy to brush off. A dash of glitter, “the herpes of craft supplies,” would make cleanup at least 10 times harder (and more glamorous).
Smell: None, unless paired with eggs or a foul-smelling liquid.
Symbolic or historical resonance: “Flour bombs” are a classic protest method, to the extent that there’s a recipe for it in the 2000 version of The Anarchist Cookbook; according to the cookbook, it is for those “who do not wish to inflict bodily damage on their victims but only terror.” Some high-profile victims of flour bombs in recent memory include: French presidential candidates on the campaign trail; Kim Kardashian on the red carpet; and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, hit by condoms filled with purple flour.
Humiliation: The humiliation of the experience is tempered by the universality of how easy it is to get a faint dusting of flour on oneself, as any home baker can attest to. Low humiliation.
Let us reiterate, once more, that this ranking was born merely out of a thirst for knowledge and not to be used as any sort of guide or recommendation. Unrelatedly, have you seen Vice’s recipe for the perfect milkshake for throwing?
Jenny G. Zhang is a staff writer at Eater. Samantha Mash is an illustrator and educator currently living in Portland, Oregon.