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Living on the Edge

June 2, 2010

I’m a little late on the Dennis Hopper memorial bandwagon.  And while I loved him in Blue Velvet, my favorite thing he did was Apocalypse Now (don’t worry, this all comes back to food in the end):

Hey, man, you don’t talk to the Colonel. You listen to him. The man’s enlarged my mind. He’s a poet warrior in the classic sense. I mean sometimes he’ll… uh… well, you’ll say “hello” to him, right? And he’ll just walk right by you. He won’t even notice you. And suddenly he’ll grab you, and he’ll throw you in a corner, and he’ll say, “Do you know that ‘if’ is the middle word in life? If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you”… I mean I’m… no, I can’t… I’m a little man, I’m a little man, he’s… he’s a great man! I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across floors of silent seas…

Officially, Dennis Hopper is the only actor who could ever hope to make sense of those words.  And he did it beautifully.  For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, or read Conrad’s short story upon which it is based, the Colonel is Colonel Kurtz, as played by Marlon Brando.  And one of these mind-enlarging poems dropped by Kurtz in the film goes like this:

I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream; that’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor… and surviving.

For me, that’s a pretty good description of how I feel about eating ice cream.
I know this is crazy, but just give me a chance to explain.

You see, I have an irrational fear of melting ice cream.

Part of it is my discomfort with being sticky.  Another part of it is surely related to childhood trauma of losing my ice cream to the heat of the day.  Regardless, I have been known to eat ice cream at a ridiculously fast pace.

However, some years ago I found myself doing work for Dreyer’s, the good company that sells their ice cream under the Edy’s brand in Eastern markets.  Part of the gig brought me to a brand summit at some resort-type place, where we talked about ice cream and marketing for the better part of two days.

And I learned some crazy stuff.

One I consider to be a trade secret that involves the holy grail of ice cream manufacturing.  But the other I can share, and perhaps you already know.  Ice cream tastes better when it is given the chance to soften up.

The guideline is to take ice cream out of the freezer about ten minutes before you plan to serve it.  Waiting may be torture and torment for those who are used to the instant gratification of eating their frozen treats out of the carton with a spoon.

But let me tell you, even with mass-produced ice cream replete with gums and corn syrup, the difference is remarkable.

Obviously this causes me all kinds of agita.

Eat the ice cream too fast, and I am missing out on its full delicious potential.
Eat the ice cream too slow, and it melts into a sticky mess.

It would be wise for me to just avoid the stuff.  But dammit, we have too many seasonal ice cream shops that are only open for a few months a year.  Luckily, I think I’m loosening up a bit with age.  Either that, or I am simply comforted by the fact that with Little Miss Fussy nearby, I’m never too far from a pack of diaper wipes.

That’s what I call living on the edge.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Elyse permalink
    June 2, 2010 9:04 am

    Ok- awesome- can you tell me why Edys/Dreyers have different names on different coasts? There are a few other examples (helman’s/best food for one) and I just don’t get it.

  2. Dawn DiLorenzo permalink
    June 2, 2010 2:23 pm

    Hi Daniel,
    Great article. I tried it today with some Talenti double dark chocolate gelato and while the wait was extremely difficult, it was well worth it, and I do think I enjoyed it just a little bit more (if that’s possible!).

  3. June 2, 2010 7:34 pm

    I learned this trick from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams – absolutely freggin’ unbelievable, by the way, especially the salty caramel – and always wait patiently and savor the good stuff. I never thought to take the same approach with your run of the mill pint.

  4. June 2, 2010 9:02 pm

    I like to think I mitigate the too-cold-too-melty conundrum by starting where it looks softest, and licking at a steady pace around a cone. Of course, cone eating is the best way to go about this – I tend to eat too quickly for spoon/bowl eating. I also hate soupy ice cream.

  5. maltnsmoke permalink
    June 2, 2010 9:25 pm

    First a favorite Dennis Hopper film/food moment of my own. His exchange with Christopher Walken in Quentin Tarantino’s “True Romance” pertaining to relations between the Moors and Sicilians is delicious and includes a reference to eggplant.

    Okay, a bunch of questions are coming to mind, but I’ll try to focus.

    Is it time to examine your ingestion technique/method? Is this stickiness conundrum an eating from a cone issue? Frankly, I would be inclined to refrain from the cone when eating a proper ice cream. I imagine some ice creams are intended to be consumed from a cone and in fact may be formulated such that the cone and ice cream are complementary. But seriously, shouldn’t an adult be eating proper ice cream from a dish? If you are eating from a dish, then I am at a loss, in the absence of direct observational evidence.

    Is it only ice cream stickiness that vexes the FLB? I would expect that a self acknowledged BBQ aficionado would have overcome any stickiphobia (sic, but not for the lack of searching for a medically correct term) by now.

    Childhood trauma of losing ones ice cream? Seriously? If, as an adult, I avoided everything that I lost, damaged or screwed up as a kid, let’s just say “Jack would be a very dull boy”. One does all these things as a kid and recovers so as to be able to eat ice cream and do anything else that makes one sticky…LIKE A BIG BOY. Then he washes up and moves on.

  6. Ellen Whitby permalink
    June 2, 2010 11:12 pm

    I use the same approach as Albany Jane. I eat the soft melty parts on the outside and go around and around until the middle part gets soft enough to enjoy. That method applies to cone as well as spoon eating. I think the ice cream is actually tastier when it’s a bit warmer.

    I compliment maltnsmoke on his observations. Surely ice cream isn’t as sticky as other things you enjoy … bbq wings, for example? And as a grownup, you can make sure you have a healthy supply of napkins or even a bib available before indulging in ice cream. There is also the ol’ soap and water standby if napkins and bib are insufficient. Kudos to young Miss Fussy for showing you the way.

    Eat ice cream…eat it with gusto!!!

  7. Allison permalink
    June 7, 2010 9:30 pm

    I would love to know what that ice cream trade secret is that you said you cannot divulge is. Is it adding air to ice cream? Or something more devious?

    • June 7, 2010 10:41 pm

      Adding air to ice cream is part of the process for all producers. You can’t have ice cream without air. How much air is what separates the good stuff from the plonk. What I am holding back has nothing to do with devious practices, so you can rest easy. And it’s not that I cannot divulge it, but rather just would feel like I’m betraying a confidence if I did so in writing. It has to do with what one key executive called the “holy grail of ice cream manufacturing.”

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