I’m not sure where this holiday came from. I only imagine that it came from the Congress of Holiday Selectors who were having big debates about naming holidays for all those interesting flavors out there in the ice cream world and that they landed on National Creative Ice Cream Flavors Day as part of a compromise. Have this one day in celebration of them all as opposed to hundreds of individual holidays to acknowledge all those crazy flavors out there. The calendar just wasn’t big enough to accommodate National Rum Raisin Day, National Chubby Hubby Day, National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day and all the other flavors. The ice cream world has gotten too creative, so let’s celebrate on one day and honor the essence of the creativity behind each flavor. That’s what we celebrate today.
In my lifetime, I’ve seen a whole evolution of ice cream flavors. As a youngster, there were only the standbys in the freezer: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. A few random flavors at the ice cream parlor like chocolate chip, maybe some maple walnut, pistachio. The crazy flavor was Rocky Road which seemed to be a mixture of everything and then there was Tutti-Fruiti for the colorful folk. But that’s about it. Nothing too-lifechanging. Then Häagen-Dazs came in and introduced the world to super-premium ice cream. They didn’t really surprise us with crazy flavors, but they upped the quality of the ice cream in the freezer section, plus they introduced the pint container as a vehicle for enjoyment. That made people really enjoy ice cream at home plus it gave them this hand-sized container to enjoy it from. People started talking more about ice cream and that made Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield start to listen.
In my opinion, Ben & Jerry is where this whole creative ice cream flavor trend begins. They weren’t just serving the usual flavors (although they were), they started inventing flavors. They would start with premium ice cream and then fold in flavors that would work well in ice cream. They thought outside the box, but in that hippie, Vermont kind of way. This is what Americans wanted and Ben & Jerry were in front of it all. Soon all ice cream started coming in creative flavors which is why we crave it today and why we are celebrating it today as well. The success of Ben & Jerry led to places like Steve’s and Cold Stone Creamery where you get to create your own flavors using a barrage of mix-ins and toppings. That’s it’s own new fad today. It allows the enduser input on their creations. This is also a huge trend in the Frozen Yogurt world too.
I should clarify that the history here is all my own theory. There’s no real research or fact behind it. Just my own mental notes on ice cream as I have observed over the years. It sounds good though, doesn’t it?
Lola and I are no strangers to Ben & Jerry (or Benjamin and Jerome as we like to call them). I’ve told that tale here before so I won’t repeat, but they are no stranger in our freezer. I felt that they would also give us the best solution to today’s celebration dilemma. I got out of work at about 8 PM and stopped at Clements on my way home and headed right to the ice cream aisle. The coolness of the aisle provided a moment of respite after a day spent outside on a humid day, so I lingered there a bit longer than I should have, but I wasn’t the only one. In a fact there were a few groups in the aisle having the what-ice-cream-should-we-get debate. I still don’t know why people go shopping in groups. It’s one of those little things that bug me especially when I am on a mission and they are in my way. I’ve been stuck behind too many couples who can’t come to agreement but block the aisle until one is made. In any case, I waited until the Ben & Jerry door was free and then moved in and stared at all the different offerings to see what new creative flavors awaited. I found two that I had never seen before.
When I got home, I cleaned up and had some dinner. Afterwards, it was time for ice cream and our tribute to creative ice cream flavors. It was actually the perfect night for ice cream. It was still hot and humid and the thrill of something cool was the perfect respite. I started with the One Love which is a limited offering as a small tribute to Bob Marley and part of the proceeds go to fund a youth empowerment program in Jamaica. In a weird parity of my quest and this ice cream, the program is located in Tapioca Village in Jamaica, which because I celebrated tapioca the other day, I knew Jamaica was a place where the cassava root flourishes (the root ingredient to tapioca). I wasn’t so excited about the flavor as listed – I’m never one for banana ice cream – but it seemed kind of perfect for creative ice cream flavor day. The banana flavor was actually really good. It surprised me at how strong the banana came through. The add-ins kind of brought it all together though. The caramel added the sweetness, the graham cracker some needed texture and the fudge chips the introduction of that chocolate flavor. I was really surprised that it was as good as it was. I think if I went in blind not knowing it was banana flavor I may have spit it out because that would have been an unexpected assault on my tastebuds, but once you accept the banana taste, it’s really good. I suppose bananas and ice cream go good together – I mean the banana split has been a favorite at ice cream parlors for years. Ben & Jerry just wanted to recreate that favorite in an all-encompassed pint form. Well done gents. Here’s a little video on their One Love program too so you can see where the money goes (and Tapioca Village):
The next flavor I tried (I had to try two flavors at a minimum, lest you think I was dogging this celebration) was called Oat of This Swirled which I didn’t realize until much later in the night that it was a play on words to mean “out of this world”. I don’t know Ben and Jerry – a little bit of a stretch on that one. In any case, this flavor was a new limited batch too. It is buttery brown sugar ice cream with fudge flakes & oatmeal cinnamon cookie swirls. That’s a mouthful, but it was a good ice cream, especially if you like oatmeal cookies. The flavor of the cookies was mixed in throughout with little crunches from the flakes. The ice cream however was super good. It was creamy but the brown sugar gave it some great sweetness which was a bit different than the usual sugar in ice cream. The oatmeal flavor and the fudge balanced it all together. Of the two, this one was my favorite but they were both good. To give them credit, the folks at Ben & Jerry’s really know how to balance out flavors. First in the simple combination of what’s in each flavor – there’s never one flavor that overwhelms the whole batch – and second in how each ingredient is mixed in. You seem to get a bit of each ingredient in every bite. They understand the creative end of ice cream making and they know how to deliver.
Admittedly, this was a strange holiday but it really is an opportunity to salute the options we have out there in the ice cream aisle. It’s a tribute to the advancement of society. Our forefathers fought for our freedom so we could have oatmeal cookie swirls in our banana ice cream. George Washington was a known lover of ice cream and in fact, he brought ice-cream making equipment to the capital when he was President so he could serve it to visitors. He’d appreciate where the world of ice cream has gone. He would love the flavors and the options. He would salute the creativity and ingenuity behind every batch. He would cuddle up with Martha on a Saturday night at Mt. Vernon with a pint of Cherry Garcia in his hand and binge on some Breaking Bad. That was George’s vision of America. That was what we paid tribute to today – the ingenuity and creative spirit that goes in to every new flavor of ice cream. That’s the American way and why Ben and Jerry should have their own spot on Mt. Rushmore. Isn’t there a mountain we can carve up in Vermont? We can call it Mt. Americone Dream.
Next up: National Anisette Day