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Ruining Perfectly Good Ice Cream

October 22, 2013

When I think about what an ice cream town might look like, I don’t imagine very healthy looking people walking around in their fancy yoga clothes. And perhaps it’s unfair to categorize Princeton in such a way. After all, not everyone goes out dressed to impress,

Nah. Pretty much everyone does.

And honestly, it’s a refreshing change of pace from life in upstate New York where I’ve witnessed adults walking down the street in their pajamas and fuzzy slippers. But I’m not here to complain about fashion.

How Princeton became an ice cream town I don’t know. But this small hamlet has three impressive ice cream parlors within an easy walk from one another. Everyone has their own personal favorite. I already have mine. Halo Pub makes ice cream from their very own dairy. The Bent Spoon creates flavors with local seasonal ingredients. Thomas Sweet also makes their own ice cream on premise, also prides itself on quality ingredients, but really seems to be all about the “blend-in”.

That last one would be where you can mix a variety of toppings into your ice cream. They have a very special machine set up just for the task. And while it may sound appealing, allow me to remind you of something.

Halloween is approaching and that means I’ve been starting to think about candy. I’m not going to beat around the bush.

Candy in this country is some pretty vile shit.

Our mass market chocolate bars taste terrible. And these days you are lucky to even get that, as candy manufacturers have been squeezing the cocoa butter and cocoa solids out of chocolate candy in order to increase their profit margins. Take a close peek at Mr. Goodbar and you will now see that it’s now “made with chocolate” which is apparently a different legal standard of identity than actual chocolate.

The guilt trip about buying chocolate sourced from countries where child slave labor isn’t tolerated can be saved for another time. Because most of what passes for chocolate these days isn’t worth the effort to chew, even without the bitter tears of slavery.

One of the other main ingredients of good chocolate is vanilla. It helps to accentuate the flavors of the cocoa bean and provides the perception of sweetness without needing to add a cloying amount of sugar. But not in candy. Seriously, if you can find me an American made candy that uses actual vanilla or vanilla extract, I’ll praise your name. But as far as I can tell, it’s all artificial vanilla flavor – aka vanillin. From Mr. Goodbar, to York peppermint patties, to my own beloved Twix bars.

I think that once upon a time American candy didn’t all used to be this way. Maybe at one point Oreos actually had real vanilla in them. I know the filling used to be made of lard, and then partially hydrogenated oils, before landing on the current formulation of “High Oleic Canola and/or Palm and/or Canola Oil”.

But I think of something like Oreos with its artificial flavors, HFCS sweetener and soy lecithin, and I couldn’t imagine putting that into handcrafted ice cream made from the highest quality ingredients. The same goes for Kit-Kats, York peppermint patties, and pretty much every single candy one can choose as a “blend-in” at Thomas Sweet or elsewhere.

I know it’s hard to change perceptions about things as the world changes around you.

Yes, intuitively you may know that the Oreos of today are different from the Oreos of your youth. However, when you are caught up in the moment at an ice cream parlor, cookies and cream just sounds awfully appealing. And the Oreo brand still has the power to imply a greater quality than just generic sandwich cookies.

I find myself falling for that kind of thinking all the time. And it’s time for that to stop. These treats may have been good once upon a time, but today, they are not. It’s a shame. And for a shop that prides itself on using all natural ingredients, the idea of adding artificial vanilla flavor to their ice cream (in any form) should be an anathema.

I’m going to keep my eyes open for candy that I think is worth a damn. But don’t hold your breath. Little Miss Fussy is dying for some miniature boxes of Nerds, and I have a funny feeling that she’s not going to listen to reason.

At least I’ve been able to get her ice cream without any inclusions.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Doug permalink
    October 22, 2013 11:57 am

    Lake Champlain Chocolates, Burlington VT uses vanilla and vanilla extract.

    • Lilly permalink
      October 25, 2013 8:48 am

      Looooove Lake Champlain chocolates. Expensive, and more of a hassle to get instead of grabbing a Twix at the check out line, but a wonderful splurge once or twice a year.

  2. Pam C. permalink
    October 22, 2013 12:16 pm

    I’m not sure where the hamlet of Princeton is. Did you mean Princetown?

  3. October 22, 2013 3:33 pm

    I hear you on candy ethics. It is tough, and I too would love to try a candy with real vanilla or extract instead of vanillin. Ugh.

    But I just hope Little Miss Fussy will remember the Halloween I took her trick-or-treating and my zero-limit on candy consumption as the best Halloween ever.

  4. Susan L. permalink
    October 22, 2013 7:46 pm

    Hasn’t anyone introduced you to UNREAL candy? They make candy almost identical to snickers, M&Ms (both plain and peanut), and Reese PB cups — all flavored with vanilla extract. Plus, no HFCS, chemicals, GMOs or artificials. Sold around here at Target and CVS if you’re lucky. I’m handing them out for Halloween.

  5. October 23, 2013 1:39 am

    I couldn’t agree more. In recent years, when I decide to splurge on sweets, I usually make them myself. I’ve come to enjoy the process and somehow they end up so much better that way! Real ingredients = real tasty! :)

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