Nearly half of all North Americans favor the simple flavors, vanilla, chocolate, butter pecan and strawberry according to the International Ice Cream Association, in Washington, D.C. Once away from the simple, the flavors’ names tend to become less simple.
Probably the king of all flavor-creating companies is Ben & Jerry’s ® Vermont’s Finest Ice Cream, with their Cherry Garcia® (named for the deceased Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia), Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream, Chocolate Fudge Brownie™, and Phish Food® (named for the Vermont-based music group, Phish) a chocolate ice cream with chewy marshmallow nougat, a thick caramel swirl with a school of fudge fish in every pint. Their entertaining website (http://benjerry.com )includes a Flavor Graveyard, reserved for flavors past. Some of them are: 10th Anniversary Waltz/Nutcracker Suite, Bovinity Divinity, Chunky Choc Choc Mousse, Dastardly Mash, Ethan Almond, Fred & Ginger, Peanuts! Popcorn!, Rootbeer Float My Boat, Sweet Potato Pie and Wavy Gravy (a caramel-cashew-brazil nut ice cream, with a chocolate hazelnut fudge swirl and roasted almonds.
When much of the world cannot digest dairy products, the U.S. famed for its lacto-tolerance, eats an average 17.8 pounds of butter per year, 4.5 pounds of cheese, more than 350 pounds of fluid milk which is nearly one pint per day and 6.8 pounds of ice cream. In the new millennium, consumers are turning back to the rich and full-fat ice creams, those with intense flavors. In short, they are buying more and better ice cream, and despite its childhood image, ice cream is eaten far more by adults than by children – more by men than women.
The Chinese began milking domesticated animals around the year 2000 B.C. Drinking milk was a symbol of wealth, and a favorite of an early emporer and later of Chinese nobility. They made a soft paste of rice and milk and froze it on platters—a predecessor to ice cream. Ice cream, as we know it now, was not manufactured in the United States until 1852. Martin Elkort in his book, The Secret Life of Food: A feast of Food and Drink, History, Folklore and Fact, states, “Upon arrival at Ellis Island in 1921, immigrants were given ice cream, a food, by then, typical of America, according to the superintendent of the island. Puzzled, many of them spread this frozen mixture on bread before eating it.”
Different countries have altered ice cream flavors to suit their own food culture. “Helado,” Spanish for ice cream, demonstrates the region’s abundant spices, chilis and fruits. An example is the Lucas Pelucas Company which blends tamarind fruit with chili powder.
In India, ice cream is called kulfi and made from almond milk flavored with cardamom and rose water. Using condensed milk and cream makes for a quicker process.
In the Near and Middle East, Iranians like their ice cream flavored with salep, an extract from a tuber which has been boiled. The Turkish like salep as well as mastic, a resin from certain pistachio trees, in their ice cream.
Asian populations in Seattle enjoy green bean, red bean and taro (a yam-like vegetable) ice creams. Other flavors are green tea, ginger, sour plum, sesame, wasabi, clove, chai, cardamom and pumpkin. Lichee nut and Durian fruit are newer flavors.
You can tweak ice cream another way. With heat. Deconstructed, this is not magic. The oxymoronic ice cream recipe for Mexican Fried Ice Cream comes about logically. First, ice cream is frozen in serving-sized rounds, then dressed in a warm overcoat of crushed cereal and refrozen in its coating. The cooking time is only 15 seconds in deep fat. Similarly, with Baked Alaska, hard ice cream is placed on sponge cake, which is on a non-heat-absorbing plank. A large meringue is heaped all over the ice cream, sealing it off from oven heat. Cooking time is only 5 minutes in a 450-degree oven. To a lesser degree, another delight with heat and ice cream is hot pie with a creamy scoop of ice cream melting on all around it – pie a la mode.
Ice cream has always been a friendly food. Martin Elkort states, “Ice cream brings out the best in people. Associated with milk, a pure and basic food, its sweet cooling taste has pleased emperors and kings throughout history, and is today an inexpensive way of obtaining ten minutes of cool bliss.”