God Bless America and Ice Cream

Ice cream with the lovely Brandy Caldwell in The Berkshires

It’s July, and it’s already a scorcher. In the profound words of a friend’s Facebook status, “Satan called and he would like his weather back.” Have no fear, National Ice Cream Month is here, as if we need any other reason to indulge in one of America’s favorite desserts. I certainly do not. There is no other treat that can beat the often unbearable South Carolina heat quite like a cool, refreshing scoop of ice cream. Be it vanilla or triple chunk chocolate with almond slivers and a raspberry-caramel swirl, ice cream tends to generate quite the hype during the summertime, and it does so for good reason. The ice cream craze began because this cool, sweet sensation wrapped in a smooth, creamy texture could only be found in fancy cafés in Paris, where the art of ice cream making was known by few. It was a rare delicacy. Today’s ice cream, while still a delicacy, is not nearly as difficult to find or make.

With all the other frozen treat alternatives from gelato to frozen yogurt, what exactly makes ice cream, well, ice cream? The United States’ government created certain guidelines that must be met in order to carry the name “ice cream.” The main rule being ice cream must contain at least 10 percent milk fat. Milk fat comes from the milk and cream used in making ice cream and gives it a smooth texture, rich flavor and creamy body. However, gelato, an Italian-style ice cream, is creamier and richer but not because of added milk fat. Gelato is actually made with less milk fat, and its denseness comes from the fact that less air is incorporated into its mixture. I must confess that I have been known to cheat on ice cream with gelato on occasion.

One of the latest installments of Ben & Jerry's flavor conglomerate

Despite the sometimes outrageous and always increasing flavors of ice cream, vanilla and chocolate still reign as champions among consumers. Chunky Monkey, Chubby Hubby, Karmel Sutra, Mission Marzipan, Fossil Fuel, Cherry Garcia and Phish Food could all very well be names of 80’s hair bands, but they are actually the names for ice cream flavors created by one of my all-time favorite duos, Ben and Jerry. Ben and Jerry rank right up there with Simon and Garfunkel, Will and Grace (better yet, Jack and Karen), Kath and Kim (AUS version), Pinky and the Brain, and Bobby and Whitney (SIKE!). In my limited opinion, these beloved ice cream connoisseurs were the first to push the envelope past your normal, run-of-the-mill flavors by creating new and unique flavors with wacky names. I cross my fingers in great anticipation for the unveiling of Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles ice cream. #pipedreams (for you twitter savvy folks)

Freedom of Choice!

Buying ice cream is easy. The grocer’s freezer is filled with all sorts of brands, varieties and flavors, and a surplus of ice cream parlors are popping up all over town. Yes, freedom of choice in America is definitely made loud and proud by way of ice cream, so maybe it is no coincidence that the 4th of July falls in National Ice Cream Month. However, as the passive and non-decisive person that I am, I find an excess amount of choices makes my palms sweat. Then I remember I’m just a girl standing in front of tubs of ice cream asking them to love me. Rock on, America and Freedom of Choice!

During college and one dreadfully hot summer, I worked at Clemson’s ’55 Exchange (named in honor of donations from the class of ’55) and served up Clemson’s finest, ice cream that is. Sure, the University of South Carolina has two national baseball titles under their belt, but Clemson has ice cream and that counts for something, right? Well, in my book that’s all you really need. It was a fun job until on any given day, a gaggle of college boys with their bottomless pits for stomachs would come in all requesting large, extra-thick chocolate milkshakes, which in case you didn’t realize requires a heck of a lot of ice cream. Also, this usually requires one to switch out an emptied vat of ice cream to the one underneath, which being rock solid, would prompt the need for a chisel to make headway towards proper scoopage. Needless to say, my biceps were amazing that summer, specifically my right bicep, and perhaps it did appear rather disproportionate to the rest of my body. The point is you can purchase ice cream in a Mary Poppins snap, but what about making your own? I don’t care who you are or where you come from; homemade ice cream ALWAYS tastes better.

Because of my spidey senses, or the magnetic force that lures me into the ice cream aisle every time I step foot into a grocery store, I’ve noticed a trend in the new flavors emerging. Non-ice cream desserts, such as apple pie, banana pudding, tiramisu, and s’mores made into ice cream flavors are the new big thing. One of my favorite desserts happens to be key lime pie. I just got chills thinking about it. At Clemson if you are one of the Food Science students who works in the microcreamery (where they make the ice cream), you get to invent your very own flavor flav. Alas, I did not work in the microcreamery, but I always knew what flavor I would create. Key Lime Pie Ice Cream (recipe follows)!

Ice Cream Making Vessel

GREAT GIFT IDEA ALERT: Allegedly, there is a ball-shaped ice cream maker that your kids or somebody else’s kids can shake, pass or roll, and in 30 minutes you’ll have a quart of ice cream. Some news station out of Missouri had a write-up on the ball, and they gave the product a B-. They also gave me a chuckle with the following excerpt: “We quickly learn this ball is kind of heavy. Little Tessa has the hardest time of all. Watch those toes! This thing weighs seven pounds! Still, it is kind of fun.” Whoever came up with this idea I would like to shake their hand, as I am a firm supporter of pointless, fun inventions, like those flip-flops with the bottle opener in the sole or pajama jeans. I had to hold my tongue here when the obvious example would be the Shake Weight. It’s like this decade’s ThighMaster. Thanks for nothing, Suzanne Somers 🙂

SIDENOTE: Although what I’m about to reveal may very well solidify the stereotypical statements made in unison about cows and Clemson, I would like to proudly state that in college I was inducted into the National Dairy Shrine based on my 5th place standing at the National Dairy Products Evaluation Contest. Yes, I was a dairy judge. You may be wondering how does one receive this prestigious honor. Well, I basically heard my adviser say, “Blah, blah, blah…you get to go to Chicago,” and decided I needed no further explanation. I was in, and this meant I spent many early mornings tasting oxidized milk, scorched butter (which actually tastes like caramel candy), and grainy cottage cheese. So, what does a competition look like? A nerd fest! For real, we carry around clip boards, wear pleated khakis and taste 8 samples of each of the following products—milk, butter, cottage cheese, yogurt, cheddar cheese, and ICE CREAM, of course. Technically, you are supposed to spit out each sample as you taste, but whenever it came to ice cream, I could never spit it out. I just love it too much to do so.

PHOTO: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Jan Gautro

Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

1 ½ cups 2% reduced-fat milk

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon key lime zest*

2 cups heavy whipping cream

½ cup key lime juice**

Dash of salt

8 graham crackers (2 cookie sheets), coarsely crushed

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed to combine the milk, granulated sugar, and zest until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Stir in the heavy cream, juice and salt. Pour the mixture into freezer bowl of an ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Stir in graham crackers and transfer to a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze for 2 hours or until firm. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving. Yield: 5 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

*Key lime zest can be substituted with lime zest.

**Key lime juice can be substituted with lime juice.



  1. Beth Ables said

    Hey there! I have to comment for a few reasons. First, we all live in the same town again so let’s hang out! Second, key lime pie is my favorite ice cream flavor. And third, when I was drooling over the picture, I had to laugh at the photo credit–I used to babysit and housesit and dog sit (a lot of sitting) for Becky when I lived in Birmingham.
    Call us! Come hang out!

    • Ha! Becky was actually the food photographer when I did an internship at Cooking Light in the B-ham…small world. I did hear that you and your growing family relocated back to the Greenville area…exciting on all accounts! And yes, let’s hang out!

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