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Quick, Before It Melts: Little-Known Facts About Ice Cream Revealed : What Happens to the Flavor of the Month When the Month Is Up?

July 16, 1987|CAROLE SUGARMAN | The Washington Post

Ice cream, perhaps more than any other food, is in our hearts and minds and freezers.

We eat it not just at the table, but in the park and on the street; and when we wake up in the middle of the night, we crave it above all foods. For some people, there is no such thing as enough ice cream.

Still, like many things that we love inordinately, we don't examine it all that closely. In infatuation, we ignore those nagging questions that perhaps we should be asking.

How do all those Oreos get smashed for Cookies 'n Cream? Why is pistachio ice cream green? And what happens to a Baskin-Robbins flavor-of-the-month when its month is up?

We propose to answer those questions, as well as provide other answers that you as ice-cream consumers have a right to know.

Fake Scandinavian Towns

Why are upscale ice creams invariably named after fake Scandinavian towns?

Reuben Mattus, founder of Haagen-Dazs, told a Newsday reporter in 1981 that although the name doesn't mean anything in Danish, nor is it any place he knows of, Haagen-Dazs is Haagen-Dazs, because it "sounds good."

Mattus sold his New Jersey-based company to Pillsbury in 1983. He is now semi-retired, incommunicado.

What happens to a Baskin-Robbins flavor-of-the-month after its month is up?

Flavor-of-the-month heaven is located in Burbank, where the formulas for close to 600 flavors are stored in a locked vault, according to company spokeswoman Marilyn Novak. (After all, "IBM locks up their designs," Novak said.)

While some flavors are revived seasonally (e.g. Winter White Chocolate, Quarterback Crunch), many topical flavors are "long gone and will never come back," said Novak. Among them: Lunar Cheesecake, developed after the 1969 moon landing; Sunflower Power, developed during the hippie era; and Beatle-Nut, named after the famous singing group.

Is there a proper way to eat ice cream, or is it proper to eat it any old way?

Manners said, "Always lick your ice-cream cone clockwise. Why? We don't ask why in the etiquette business. There's a right and wrong, but not a because."

To avoid melting: "Lick the overlapping part constantly in swirls. Avoid pushing the ice cream into the bottom of the cone, so that the tip melts. That's a disaster. Then you have to hold it over your head (and suck it out the bottom)."

To precipitate melting: Although Manners does not believe stirring a bowl of ice cream is appropriate behavior, "everyone knows it tastes better all mushed. Nature has a way of solving this. Get involved in animated conversation. If you talk long enough it will melt. Good conversation doesn't matter. Ice cream is not aware of how witty you are."

Why is pistachio ice cream green?

Pistachio ice cream would look like vanilla if it weren't for green food coloring, according to Stanley Schiffer, an Arlington, Va., flavor broker. Real nuts would give it "little flavor."

That's why it's made with pistachio flavoring, Schiffer added. As for the chopped nuts sprinkled in afterward, he said, they're added "for publicity."

Will people admit to the most ice cream they've ever eaten at a single sitting?

They will if you ask them at the International Association of Ice Cream Manufacturers' annual ice-cream bash, where members of Congress, their staffs and families gorged on 2,500 gallons of ice cream and 13,000 novelties recently.

Eating 13 Cups

Judy Robinson, who works for Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), admitted to consuming 13 cups at last year's event, the majority of them pralines and cream.

"About two gallons of chocolate," fantasized 6-year-old Miya Hunter of Arlington, Va.

Karen Zempolich, who works for Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), remembered consuming "at least" a half-gallon of chocolate chip ice cream when she was a child. The attraction (as with anything we want but shouldn't have a lot of): "It was sweet and forbidden."

How do all those Oreo cookies get broken for cookies-and-cream ice creams?

No, they aren't seconds or rejects, insisted Caroline Fee, spokeswoman for the Nabisco Co., maker of Oreo cookies. They are "specially diverted" cookies, that are broken into either "small grind" (for novelty items) or "large grind" (for half-gallons), according to Fee.

Obviously, not all bits of chocolate cookies flecked in vanilla ice cream are real Oreos. Nabisco does, however, sell the two grinds to other ice-cream companies as well as use them in its own products.

Fee would not elaborate on the quantity of crushed Oreos the company sells, how many employees are needed for the operation or the type of machine used to do the crushing. (What is this, anyway, the race to develop superconductors?)

Divulge Methodology

At least one Oreo crusher was willing to divulge his methodology. Bob Weiss, owner of Bob's Famous ice cream shops, said that when the company first started making its Oreo ice cream, staffers used hammers to smash the cookies. Now the company is "slightly more refined" and uses a commercial mixer, Weiss confided.

Do people who work in ice-cream stores eat a lot of ice cream?

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