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  • Susan Welsh

The emperor of ice cream--a journey through poems, politics, and ice cream. . .

In 1982 I read Wallace Steven's poem, "The Emperor of Ice Cream" for the first time. I didn't entirely understand it, but appreciated it on some level. If nothing else, I enjoyed the alliterative cadence of "kitchen, cups, concupiscent, curds". . . If only for that, and the title, somehow it resonated. It wasn't until this week, that I learned (or relearned) that this poem references death, a funeral, and the tradition of serving ice cream at wakes-- not a bad idea, really, and there are others who feel the same. A little sweetness to balance the sadness, a scoop of joy to ameliorate the grief. . . I'm adding it to my personal list of requests regarding final passage and memorial rites.

In 1984 Geraldine Ferraro of NY became the first major-party VP Candidate and President Ronald Reagan proclaimed July National Ice Cream Month--two memorable and outstanding political achievements.

In Vermont, that same year, the idea for Cookie Dough Ice Cream was born. Inspired by an anonymous fan who posted the idea on a bulletin board at Ben and Jerry's Burlington Scoop Shop, it was whipped into life. From the beginning, this is a company that's been a pioneer of socially conscious ice cream.

In the Summer of 2015 and the landmark win for marriage equality Ben and Jerry's celebrated by honorarily renaming one of their bestsellers (aforementioned Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough) "I Dough, I Dough"

From the Green Mountains of Vermont to the Ample Hills of Walt Whitman's poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, comes the inspiration for Brooklyn's ice cream success story. . . How a little Mom and Pop shop became famous for their Star Wars, Madmen and Presidential ice creams and even opened a parlor on Disney's Boardwalk .

You had me at poetry and pastoral, but it's their political scoops that run deepest. In 2012 Ample Hills Creamery made two election flavors, including one for Obama's bid for the White House, entitled Four More Years--an ingenious combination of Ommegang beer, sweet cream and honeycomb candy pieces, all inspired by the White House's microbrewery and honeybee colony.

The list of small batch, organic, socially conscious, clever and outrageously delicious ice cream options is a longer list than I can possibly curate in one blog. Writing about ice cream for the rest of my hours wouldn't be the worst fate in the world, but I conclude for today with a worthy contender for cleverness- Coolhaus' Netflix ice cream--a white cheddar-infused ice cream with Doritos. Coolhaus, which debuted its wares at the world-famous Coachella Valley Music Festival in April of 2009 has been vending their way around the country with a national fleet of ice cream trucks.

This summer, Coolhaus has partnered with Ford for a collaboration of two classics--the "Orange Fury" ice cream sandwich and the introduction of the 2018 Mustang now available in an Orange Fury exterior color. The ice cream sandwich features "a zesty orange-flavored ice cream between two Vanilla Whoopies, covered in orange icing and an edible wrapper made from potato wafer paper with edible ink"

As with much in the culinary world, ice cream has its roots in the old world. It' Sicilian, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, who would become known as the "father of Italian Gelato". In 1686 he opened the first cafe in Paris, Il Procope and may well have been the first to serve ice cream in the city. Il Procope became home to many famous intellectuals including Benjamin Franklin, Victor Hugo, and Napoleon--if not the emperor of ice cream, then surely the emperor of Les Invalides.

As Napoleon himself might have said, "Mangez Bien". Interesting to note that the French say "Eat Well" instead of "live well". Honor this July-- eat well and live well by indulging in your favorite ice cream.


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