What Does Ice Cream Say About You?

Consider the question as follows:

Do you feel that you enjoyed ice cream more as a child or more in the present day?

I’ve asked this question today to several different individuals in my life, and came to an interesting spread of responses that could be watered down and categorized into three different answers.

  1. The widespread modern market of Ben and Jerry’s aside, Ice cream was more satisfying as a child.

The truth of the matter is that I do not care about what ice cream or when you liked it. But what I am interested in is who indicates that there is a difference in the taste of ice cream over a lifetime and who does not. And more importantly, what could this say about a person?

The first and simplest argument is to say is this person introspective or not? In which case I would categorize groups one and two as introspective, and the third as not. Are you able to look deep enough into your prior experiences and compare them to come up with an answer? But, just because someone feels one way about ice cream, maybe is even an avid lover of the confection, does not mean they are not introspective, generally speaking.

Another aspect of this question, considered by many subjects, is the quality of the ice cream. Even in my short life, the quantity of ice cream choices within the grocery store has grown seven-fold, to be inexact. But to consider the difference between choices twenty years ago and 40 to 50 years ago is important. One individual of an older age spoke on the issue:

“Speaking only for myself, ice cream is much better now than when I was a kid. My mom only bought the cheapest ice milk that Kroger’s had. (I don’t know if they even make ice milk anymore.) Dairy Queen was a huge treat and it was not even real ice cream. Occasionally we would be somewhere where there was hand-cranked homemade ice cream, but it was probably ice milk too and usually tasted slightly salty. All that being said, no matter what kind of frozen confection was presented, it was always a real treat and enjoyed with gusto.”

So indeed, the quality of the ice cream of the times does matter. It does taste better now, than in childhood, for the simple reason of modern invention. The final sentence does speak to the individual’s general thoughts surrounding ice cream “no matter what kind of frozen confection was presented, it was always a real treat and enjoyed with gusto.” We can place this answer into type 2. The subject prefers ice cream as an adult, but is able to examine life experience for the sake of comparison.

If we consider what I am calling the negative side of the question, the group threes, the answers are short.

“Different ice cream tastes different”

“It has always been delicious.”

And one confusing but confirming response from my own father:

“Why are you asking this? Are you talking about the objective quality of the ice cream? Because then it tastes better now. Do I notice a difference in the taste of my ice cream over the years? No. There is no difference, other than I more readily eat it now than I did back then.”

Stirring, but also dissatisfying. It becomes more clear that my goal in asking this question is to encourage people to look at experiences as improving over time, continuing to evolve in some value, or perhaps that the tiniest portions of life offer some sort of profound insight on our experience.

As an empathetic interviewer, I must consider my subjects in context to avoid writing them off entirely in my own mind. Part of this context includes how often or readily available is ice cream at any point in life. For my father, it is readily available, and enjoyed frequently in modest amounts post dinner. One might consider that the ice cream has become too easily accessible, and his value of it as a treat may have diminished significantly. However, another subject of mine is a frequent ice cream eater, but her answer falls into group two.

“For me, I’d say now. I notice it (the taste) more and appreciate it… I guess I mostly just don’t remember thinking much about the taste as a kid (which is weird) but more that, no matter how much I had, I always wanted more.”

In my final thoughts on this matter for now, I have to redirect my thinking to encompass the concept of a “treat.” The common factor between individuals within groups 1 and 2 is not introspection alone, but really the thought, impact, and definition of a treat. In this case, frequency does not matter, because one who recognizes a treat as a treat can enjoy it at any frequency and consider every time to be of high quality and well deserved. For those of us who fall into group 1, we think of the occasions on which we enjoyed the simpler ice creams. To say that vanilla with sprinkles circa 2002 tastes better than Super Fudge Brownie in 2022 may be objectively false. But as a child, we considered the moments of ice cream sandwiches and vanilla with sprinkles to be impactful, special, and truly joyful.

I could do this experiment with, maybe not anything, but certainly many things: beer, cheese, a burger, fries, etc. But what will likely expose itself in the end is how an individual imparts joy within the treat. Can you sit and enjoy the moment and the object for what it is: a thing to be enjoyed… with gusto.

I am a #writer, a #teacher, and a #mental health advocate that serves to tell stories that will entertain, make you laugh, and help you think.