Some question whether it is possible to inherit a sweet tooth. As early as I can remember, my paternal grandfather always had a plastic gallon-sized bucket of ice cream in the garage freezer. On the other side, my mother would repeat stories of her father and grandfather churning a freezer of ice cream for their family picnic, and proceed to churn a second freezer to split just between the two of them. Thankfully, a study summarized in the 2007 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests I inherited a double-scoop of sweet tooth for ice cream. Conclusion: I can blame my genetics instead of deficient willpower.
Inherited preferences aside, let us start at the beginning. Looking back, Memorial Day cookouts with extended family always included at least one freezer of homemade ice cream. Occasionally, some cousin would venture beyond vanilla and churn flavors like peach or strawbanut (strawberry, banana, pecan). These social gatherings were my first exposure to homemade ice cream and its variants. Over time, my interest evolved from consumption-driven cravings into a hobby infused with creativity and community.
I vividly remember a friend sharing mango ice cream he prepared one afternoon. The marriage of fresh, ripe fruit and rich dairy was unlike any I had tasted before. Until then I had not considered producing my own. How does one even transform mango into ice cream? What other flavors are possible? With a bit of instruction, trial, and error, learning how to prepare and cook the custard was quite simple. With time, I learned that creativity comes not in the making, but in the imagining. Fast forward a few years…after experimenting and recipe hunting, my flavor successes include blackberry, Nutella, apple cider, strawberry shortcake, and black licorice, to name a few.
While any numbers of flavors are delicious, I stand by the principle that the best ice cream is shared. Bellarmine has become a testing ground for new flavors, with many willing tasters. I first used homemade ice cream as a motivational treat for the resident assistants I supervised. Then, as word spread, an idea was born. For eight weeks each summer, Bellarmine staff welcome the half-day Fridays when the university closes at noon. In an attempt to enhance the joy on these days and promote community (in true residence life fashion), I began inviting staff to gather for a scoop or two of homemade ice cream at 11:45 a.m. each Friday. “Bring your own cup – spoons and ice cream provided” was the mantra. Some weeks the flavor was chef’s choice, and on others I took requests. Before long I had shared ice cream with campus security, student activities, the Dean of Students and more. A community tradition was born.
On days when I lack ingredients or motivation, there are multiple ice cream shops within walking distance of campus. Those seeking slabs of chocolate mixed with their dairy stroll up to Graeter’s on Douglas Loop. Continue another 10 minutes on foot and you can top a slice of pie with locally churned scoops from Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen. Perhaps you’re feeling wild and want some funky flavors on an ever-changing menu: head to The Comfy Cow. Those yearning for the various “top your own” frozen yogurt shops should look elsewhere for an endorsement. For me, ice cream is always the way to go.
Friends have taken to gifting me recipe books about ice cream. Apparently, there is much to learn. For example, beyond traditional ingredients (milk, cream, sugar), a primary component that determines product quality is air. Industrial production may whip more air into the ice cream to increase volume. If you are a curious consumer, check the label the next time you shop. For packaged ice cream, a standard serving size is ½ cup (seriously?). Premium ice creams, such as Graeter’s, have as much as 114 grams of mass in that ½ cup serving. The cheap end of the spectrum contains only around 65 grams. That’s quite a bit of air you’re buying. If you’re not in the market for premium $5/pint ice cream, I think Kroger’s Private Selection offers the best scoop for the money. But if you have time on your hands and money to spare, invest in crafting your own. The quality and the community of homemade ice cream are hard to beat.
By Jay Carnes
Jay Carnes is assistant director of residence life at Bellarmine.