Friday, May 2, 2008

Flavor and Class: High Rollers, Trailer Trash, and Everything In Between

Ice cream, like our society, is stratified. Segregation occurs by brand (Acme brand ice cream being the lowest caste; Turkey Hill second lowest; Edy's third; Breyer's--middle caste; Ben & Jerry's upper teire; Häagen-Dazs--crème de la crème.

Less well known, however, is the stratification of ice cream by flavor. Type-casting ice creams by flavor is not a hard science; it relies on intuition and speculation. In the same way a person can look at someone and tell what side of the tracks they come from (this is called "prejudicing"), one may make a value judgment on a particular flavor of ice cream based on a number of characteristics: color, texture, spatial arrangement of toppings, palatal interactions, etc. The following is my personal classification system for ice creams and commentary on the various inequalities that exist.

All flavors of ice cream generally fall into one of 6 distinct classes. They are:

  • Upper Class / High Society;
  • Upper-Middle Class;
  • Middle Class;
  • Low Class;
  • White Trash;
  • GLBT/ "Alternative" (Novelty) Ice Creams

Upper Class/High Society

Upper class ice creams distinguish themselves from the riff-raff by cultivating an air of sophistication. "High 'Creams" can be recognized by their muted color palates and noticeable lack of what High 'Creamers sometimes refer to as "floating garbage"--that is, flavored morsels and extra ingredients that find their way into the ice creams of lower classes. Appearance is particularly important. For the most part the Upper Class enjoy flavors that suit their muted but refined WASP-like palate.

Mint Chocolate Chip (the white kind): exudes class, since it may be served to guests in clear crystal bowls on a silver platter, and can be topped of with a fresh mint leaf. High rollers also take a kind of sinful delight in the small chunks of chocolate.

Coffee: associated with outdoor Venician cafes and political discourse. Typically served with little spoons.

Sorbet: has the low-fat, fruit-based advantage; evokes wistfulness of summers in the Hamptons.

Gelato: it is foreign and cannot be bought in the supermarket. For this reason, Italian gelato is the quintessential iced-cream for High Rollers;

Vanilla Bean: it's white. But it's also not just "vanilla." Vanilla Bean is right at home in High Society.

Upper-Middle Class

A vanishing category in America, but alive and well in the social world of ice creams. Typically composed of flavors that desire Upper Class status but have one or more defections that keep them on the second-class shelf. Attempt to compensate by adding nuts. Think runner-up Miss USAs or Vice Presidents, and all the insecurities that come with the position:

Butter Pecan;
Prailene Almond;


Mint Chocoate Chip (the green kind);
French Vanilla.

Middle Class

These are the old-stand bys that are not as laden with amenities as their lower-class brethren. Keeping toppings to a minimum is one way middle class ice creams keep a safe distance from "Ghetto 'Creams."

Cookie's 'n Cream (the " 'n " keeps this flavor from advancing up the ladder);

Chocolate Chip (the non-mint white kind);

Vanilla (the non-bean kind);

Neopolitan (Middle America at its finest)

Low Class

Low class ice creams are what the High Rollers dream of eating but are not socially permitted to, and what the Upper Middle Class indulge in when they are out on the town and feeling "naughty." This form of "slumming" for the U.M.C. is only possible with low class ice creams, however--White Trash flavors, while offering a titillatingly whorish selection, are, like High Society, in a class all their own. As always, U.M.C. must settle for second best. Low class flavors mimic their White Trash brethren (like the Upper Middle Class, they seek to emulate (rather than distance themselves from) their neighboring class), but lack the hedonistic abandonment with which W.T.'s approach their social position:

Black Cherry: the lack of popularity of this flavor and its low position on the social totem pole is due in large part to its insecurity over identity issues. While claiming roots to the Fruit family, B.C. lacks a home among both the sorbets and sherbets, as well as the more established and respected domestic fruit flavors, such as Strawberry. B.C.'s "blackness" is also a sensitive topic, made more so by the upward movement through the classes of its noticeably lighter cousin, "Bing" Cherry. Like the hot chick whose hotness is overshadowed by her lack of mental stability, Black Cherry is a flavor avoided by most since it has nothing to offer but its own insecurity and complexes.

Peanut Butter Ripple/Peanut Butter Cup: two half brothers--one chocolate, the other vanilla--fathered by the same Puerto Rican Peanut, they are respected in their community and speak frequently about being products of a mixed-flavor union.

Fudge Ripple: the lack of ornamental toppings is the only thing that keeps this dirt-'stach flavor from being shelved at an Alabama A&P. Its general indifference towards its status, and the lack of commitment to a definitive flavor (Middle Class vanilla with skid marks? Chocolate that tastes like carob?), could be likened to a high school senior being accepted to Indiana University of Pennsylvania but going to community college because he forgot to send in his acceptance confirmation.

Dutch Apple Pie: This is what happens when an Amish family moves off the farm and into the city. At least in the country their flavors were "homey."

White Trash

This is by far the most animated class of flavors because they just don't give a fuck what anybody thinks of them. If they want to mix up Hershey's Syrup and Lucky Charms in Chocolate & Vanilla ice cream, they are going to do it. One gets a sense that this class of flavor is more at home in rural areas. Names like "Moose Tracks" and "Rocky Road" evoke images of a place where signs that read "PRIVATE PROPERTY. VIOLATERS WILL BE SHOT" mean home.

Rocky Road: while it is commonly believed that Rocky Road was created during the Great Depression by ice-cream great William Dreyer, this flavor (which consists of chocolate ice cream, nuts, and marshmallows) was actually made in the backwoods of Arkansas by a 10 year old boy named Mitchell, in lieu of his usual breakfast of milk and Sugar-O's. The recipe spread around the trailer park, and the local paper came and took a picture of Mitchell, his mouth and rat-tail coated in chocolate--a testament to this new breakfast treat. Rocky Road's is the 10th most popular flavor in America.

Moose Tracks: takes low class Fudge Ripple and throws a bunch of other shit in.

Double Fudge Brownie: apparently "Fudge Brownie" was not sufficient unto itself...

Chocolate Marshmallow: marshmallows (air-infused sugar globs) and chocolate, stains of which can frequently be seen on the shirts of DQ clientel.

Candy-brand (Reese's, Snickers, Heath Bar, etc.): sugar=flavor=good.

GLBT/"Alternative" (Novelty) Flavors

This last category (commonly considered "atypical") falls outside the vertical strata of the previous five categories. It is akin to the "Misfits Island" in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It is within this class that all the foreign, flamboyant, seasonal, and novel flavors of ice cream find their home. The only thing they share in common is that they are all freakish flavors that will probably never make it into the public mainstay.

Rainbow: the public face of GLBT ice cream. Unabashedly flamboyant. Believes all colors should live in the same carton.

Sherbet: has a "sorbet" complex...i.e., it's not sorbet, and never will be. Still fruity, though.

: the "bi" of frozen deserts. Is it sherbet? Is it ice cream? Who cares! Have your cake and eat it too!

Soft Serve/Frozen Yogurt: these frozen treats are effeminate by nature and live on the fringes of "hard" ice cream society. While fro-yo can be bought in stores, soft-serve maintains an air of exclusivity by limiting flavor selection and availability to creameries and custard stands. This does not make either any less popular, however, among dieters, school-children, and roller bladers. You go girl!

Cake Batter: this flavor is popular among pre-schoolers and toddlers who manage to somehow climb into the freezer to play "bobbing for ice cream."

Peppermint Stick: a seasonal treat...(and one of my favorites actually!)

Strawberry Cheesecake: the 'Betty Boop' of ice creams. Slightly whorish. Popular with men.

Cotton Candy: this flavor is the color of a leotard and attempts to mimic carnival fare. Enough said.


Michael said...

Glad to see your up and at it again rob. This entry had me laughing so hard and banging my hand on the wall this morning. I am curious though-I happen to be a sorbet man but sometimes can not resist the soft-serve frozen yogurts at B&R. Where do these varieties fall in line?
Michael B.

robthefob said...

Thanks, Michael. Check out the updated "GLBT/Alternative" section!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE this also. For categories fall somewhere in between the few. With an elation acquired in my secret mixing of icecream classes. Personally my very favorite would be Cherry Cordial. It has such a royal name doesnt it? Yet its tainted with the cheap sweetness of candied cherries , mixed in with any class of vanilla icecream I prefer (usually would be hagen daaz or breyers). I dont apologize for my indulgences, but I can admit that I wouldnt want to be left behind when the circus came to town.
~ Sakura