September 29, 2005

Gluttonous Licks

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I think I just committed a sin. As I write this article, I am staring at two empty packages. The first: a rectangular box that once contained a vanilla almond ice cream bar. The second: a purple plastic bag that held a ‘Wich, the Ben & Jerry’s version of an ice cream sandwich. Like many self-proclaimed stress eaters, my food cravings tend to pique as prelim tension settles in. Students have been studying in Uris library religiously, TakeNote has been sold in mass quantities and professors’ office hours have been jammed. Many thanks this week to Cornell Hillel for satisfying our anxiety-induced appetites by bringing one of every college crammer’s best friends to campus: Jerry Greenfield (the Jerry part of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream). Though the intended topic revolved around the evolution of the Ben & Jerry’s company, I was honestly attending the event for the ice cream. Jerry seemed to have read my mind. He began his speech by apologizing to the audience for having to wait until after the talk to eat. Thus, 200+ students, staff and faculty sat in the Statler Auditorium from 8 – 9 p.m. listening to a business lecture – not a single seat was vacated. Behold the power of ice cream.

Americans might consume 15 quarts of ice cream per capita each year, but people have been enjoying frozen treats for centuries. Iced dessert, according to author Lou Pappas, dates back to 1100 B.C. in China. In the dead of winter, we Cornellians could learn from the Arabs, who created sherbah from snow and syrup. The Roman Emperor Nero dined on honey and wine-flavored snow, retrieved from the mountains by servants. However, ice cream, as we know it today, was actually refined by Americans. The hand-cranked freezer was invented in 1846, and commercial production of ice cream began in 1851. Today, ice cream options and brands abound. Some select their frozen treat by type: premium, regular, light, low fat or nonfat. Others swear by such brands as Edy’s/Dreyer’s, Breyers, Ben & Jerry’s, Mayfield, Häagen Dazs, Blue Bonnet, Perry’s, Marble Slab, Carvel and MaggieMoo’s.

Ever wonder why some ice cream taste like frozen whipped cream and others taste like frozen water? It all has to do with milk content and overrun. In the United States, a product must contain at least 10% milk fat to be considered ice cream. The overrun, or amount of air in the ice cream, must result in a product that weighs at least 4.5 pounds per gallon. However, these milk fat percentages are not explicitly labeled. How do you know whether you are buying a rich, delectable ice cream or a less satisfying version? Price is usually a good indicator – with the exception of the occasional sale, the cheaper the ice cream, the cheaper the product. Still not sure? Check out the weight of the ice cream – a heavier pint will indicate a high quality product.

Quality aside, no ice cream article would be complete without a discussion of flavors. Although vanilla and chocolate are statistically the most popular in America, the ice cream world offers much more. Has anyone ever tried oatmeal chocolate chunk ice cream? The addictive flavor, with its contrasting textures of oatmeal, chunks of chocolate, cookie dough and smooth cream, is more commonly known as “liquid crack” at Larry’s Ice Cream in the Dupont Circle area of Washington D.C. But you don’t have to travel all the way to D.C. to eat great ice cream.

The Cornell Dairy deserves major kudos for creativity. The “Construction Cookie Crunch” flavor with its chunks of Oreo cookies and ribbons of fudge enrobed in white chocolate ice cream is a shock to the taste buds. I haven’t tasted Cornell’s pumpkin ice cream in three years, but I can still remember the surprising taste of frozen pumpkin pie on my tongue.

Three hours have passed since the Jerry Greenfield talk. One hour of ice cream business model lessons, five minutes of Ben & Jerry’s product consumption and a few hours of writing later, I stare once again at the empty wrappers on my desk. Recent memories of enjoying the vanilla ice cream on a blonde brownie with a thick drizzle of milk chocolate coating sprinkled with almonds and chewy fudge-swirled chocolate chunk cookies and vanilla fudge chip ice cream make this late night more bearable. Welcome to prelim season, Cornell – it’s enough to tempt even the most dessert-averse into gluttony.

Archived article by Anna Fishman
Sun Contributor