There’s something in the air that makes me crave ice cream
You knew she was a cool customer, maybe even cold-hearted. But did you know the Iron Lady was an inventor of ice cream?
Before I learned the strange and fascinating fact that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher invented “soft serve,” I licked my Dairy Queen medium vanilla down to the cone in relative peace.
Knowing absolutely nothing about soft ice cream was bliss on a summer day.
I loved its abnormal lightness and its creamy texture more than the chunkiest, buttery-est, most authentic hard ice cream on the market.
But learning what I did about Mrs. T. and her fellow chemists has, unfortunately, forced me to think about my old leisure treat, ice cream.
What she and her team succeeded in doing in the 1950s was inflating ice cream with air for the purpose of artificially boosting its value — chemistry for the sake of capitalism.
It was a formula for deception that revolutionized the industry.
Many manufacturers today use aeration to give ice cream a creamier, fluffier texture, but mostly they aerate to maximize profits.
The cheaper varieties of ice cream contain up to 50 per cent air.
The use of stabilizers (seaweed products, like agar) rather than cream, along with the air, also decreases the fat and energy content in cheaper ice creams, therefore making them attractive to shoppers on diets.
Dairy Queen is able to boast only 35 calories per fluid ounce.
Forget the fact that, like fountain pop and popcorn at the movies, the price markup is, like, 1,000 per cent — on a product that is only half there.
In reaction to the trend towards poor quality thin and airy ice creams, rich gourmet varieties, including Ben and Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs, were eventually introduced.
(If you too think about your ice cream, you should know that Ben and Jerry’s of Vermont has four organic flavours and an impressive social portfolio that includes lobbying on behalf of small farmers, fighting for health insurance for poor US children and combating global warming.)
You may have heard that Rose Mattus, who launched Häagen-Dazs ice cream in 1960 with her late husband Reuben, died last week at age 90.
I was humbled to read among Rose’s many obits that the Häagen-Dazs story is also one of deception.
Reuben and Rose, Zionist Jews living in the Bronx, came up with a name that means nothing so that consumers like me would believe it was authentic German fare, whatever that means.
But forgive the lie because its ingredients are true.
The price you pay for all of this genuine goodness is a few inches at your waistline.
The Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Almond Fudge carton in my freezer indicates that a half cup of ice cream contains 320 calories and 22 grams of fat.
Compare that to the President’s Choice Chocolate Fudge Crackle in my freezer, which contains 200 calories and 10 grams of fat per half cup.
Dairy Queen still wins, with less than 150 calories for any half cup of soft serve squeezed out of its industrial spigot.
Dairy Queen also wins when it comes to cost. The fattier and denser the ice cream, the more you are going to pay.
Dairy Queen, also born from humble beginnings when brothers Angelo and John Panza opened their shop in Brooklyn in 1964, carries on the deceptive tradition of Thatcher and Co. when listing its ingredients.
It advertises “fresh, wholesome milk to give it that creamy smooth texture and taste you’ve come to love.”
Also in a DQ cone is milk fat, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla flavouring, and stabilizers. But what is really making your taste buds sing is that most evasive of ingredients — air.
It’s good to remind ourselves that, like Rose and Reuben Mattus when they first started out, we can always make our own almost-air-less ice cream at home.
There are three kinds of homemade ice cream that you can make — Philadelphia-style, which has little or no eggs but is heavy on cream, and French-style, which is richer for its heavy use of egg yolks.
Each of these requires lots of time, patience and an ice-cream machine.
The third kind is homemade Dairy Queen ice cream.
Follow these simple trashy recipes from cooks.com, which do not require an aerating machine, nor a spigot for serving, and which call for some very inauthentic (Cool Whip, gelatin), but cheaper ingredients, and you will no doubt enjoy success.
These, Margaret, are for you.
#1 Imitation Dairy Queen ice cream
2 c. sugar
1 pkg. vanilla instant pudding
1 (8 oz. or 12 oz.) Cool Whip
2 tsp. vanilla
Milk to fill freezer can
Beat eggs; add sugar and pudding mix. Pour in freezer can. Add Cool Whip and milk to make one gallon. Freeze as usual.
#2 Imitation Dairy
Queen ice cream
2 env. Knox gelatin
1/2 c. cold water
4 c. milk
2 c. sugar
3 cans evaporated milk
1/4 tsp. salt, optional
Mix gelatin and water. Let stand. Heat milk (do not boil). Remove from heat and add sugar and gelatin mixture. Cool milk mixture. Add evaporated milk, vanilla and salt.
#3 Imitation Dairy Queen ice cream
1/2 c. cold water
4 c. whole milk
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. Salt
3 c. cream
Soak the unflavoured gelatin in the cold water. Heat the milk until hot but not boiling. Add the gelatin, sugar, vanilla and salt. Cool and add three cups of cream. Put into refrigerator to chill for five to six hours before freezing. Makes one gallon.
Juliann Fraser is a writer living in Whitehorse.