Saturday, February 27, 2010

I Scream, You Scream...

Somewhere in the process of eating most of a carton of Dreyer's Drumstick flavor ice cream, the last of it right out of the box with a long handled ice-tea spoon, I started thinking about how very many flavors of ice cream there are out there. Dare I say, almost too many?

If the purpose of having so many flavors out there is to make it easier to find just the right one you want, it has dismally failed. It is far harder to make a decision on a carton of ice cream than it ever was back in the 60's and 70's when I was a kid.

In grammar school, the 8th grade class sold ice-cream cones at lunch time to raise money for their annual school trip. They served chocolate (what I always got) strawberry (now that is just strange!) and vanilla (why anyone would choose a non-flavor like white vanilla when they could have chocolate was beyond me!) for a nickel a scoop. I didn't even have to think about it.

At the stores, there were only a couple of brands to look at. And the flavors were pretty straighforward. Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry, and then what we usually got, Neopolitan, which was vanilla, chocolate and strawberry all in one carton. You could carefully scoop the flavors separately and make a banana split look like the ones from Woolworth's.

My grandmother always had Maple-Nut in her freezer. I wasn't crazy about it; if I had a choice I always picked a piece of one of her ice-cream pies she kept in there. Then along came an exotic flavor: Butter Brickle. It was a buttery flavor with little pieces of toffee things floating around in it. When it was fresh it was great. When it was old and had been partially melted at the grocers a time or two, it wasn't so great...

My aunt introduced us to something called Burgundy Cherry. We were already familiar with Cherry Vanilla, which my mom seemed to really like, but this was different. Not that it tasted especially spectacular, but it was very beautiful. Purplish pink with soft burgundy colored cherries in it. Two other flavors that were a staple at our house were Rocky Road and Chocolate Marble.

I think it was the Mint Chip ice cream that heralded a new era of flavors in the grocers case. Cookie Dough followed, and then Strawberry Cheese Cake. Tin Roof Sundae and Mocha Almond Fudge came up close behind. Then it seemed like a free-for-all. Every candy bar made now came in an ice cream version, every combination of chocolate, carmel, nuts, crumbs, peanut butter and coffee you could put together were made and named after various curious phenomena.
It's a proven scientific fact that having more choices makes decision-making harder, not easier, that people are more dissatisfied with their final choice than if they only had a few to pick from.
So now I stand at the frozen section staring at all the brands, all the flavors, and cannot for the life of me pick one. So I pick two. Or three. Just in case I decide the first one wasn't the one I really wanted after all. So maybe they know what they are doing after all.


  1. Heheh...every time I hear "Woolsworth" I think of Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? "And stay out of the Woolsworth!!"

    Seriously tho, I know what you mean. I would always rather got to In and Out, in a large part because of the limited menu.

  2. Yes, when I almost get a panic attack when I go into McDonalds and look up at the menu board.