'You scream, I scream,
We all scream for ice cream'
It's summer in the good ol' USA, and that means it's stiflingly, obnoxiously, stupefyingly
hot. Every day is a bad hair day. The steering wheel in your car burns your hands and the
seats cook your backside. Rivers dry up, gardens wilt, and tempers flare. Parts of the
country spontaneously combust. We look forward to the hurricane season to put out the
fires and cool us off. Summer: it's not a season for sissies.
It is, however, the season to eat ice cream.
The Good News
Why do we love ice cream? Well, it's made with cream and milk, comfort foods that
remind us of our childhoods and simpler times. It's sweet, it's refreshing on hot days, and
the butterfat gives it what foodies call 'mouth feel'. This means that it's silky on the tongue
and it goes down a treat. High quality chocolate also has wonderful mouth feel thanks to its
cocoa butter content, and eating chocolate ice cream is a sublime experience.
'Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.'
American actress and Woman Who Knows
Various dairy industry spokespersons1 tell us that milk and ice cream are full of
protein and calcium. Ice cream also puts a smile on your face and gives you energy for that
sprint between air-conditioned buildings. I recommend a minimum of three servings daily.
As the Food Police are always reminding us, it's important to start your day with a good
breakfast, especially if it's already 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) in the
For most of us eating ice cream is a no-brainer, but some have to think twice about it.
They are prone to the ice cream headache, often referred to as 'brain freeze' by children
who know about these things. Naturally the lab coat brigade is on this like white on milk, and
they tell us that when a cold substance touches a nerve centre in the roof of the mouth, the
nerve centre seems to overreact and dilates blood vessels in the head in an effort to warm it
up. The stabbing or aching pain begins a few seconds after the rapid ingestion of cold foods
or beverages and peaks in 30-60 seconds. Rarely, it persists for two to five minutes.
Translation: your head hurts like the dickens for a brief period of time, but then you can
enjoy your treat. According to one wag:
'No treatment is usually
required, and sufferers rarely seek medical attention. Most people arrive at preventive
measures without the advice of doctors. Ice cream abstinence is not
Some scientists have gone to heroic extremes in their research, experimenting on
themselves by eating large quantities of ice cream and describing the results. Such
dedication to the pursuit of scientific knowledge is admirable. I'm clearly in the wrong line
Ice cream can be plain vanilla or flavoured with fruit, nuts, or other goodies, tarted up for
a night on the town or dressed down for an evening in front of the TV. It's simple enough to
delight children and sophisticated enough to interest adults. What's not to like?
The Bad News
Well, plenty, according to some. They wouldn't eat ice cream if you paid 'em.
About two-thirds of the world's population is lactose intolerant, which means their bodies
do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase to properly digest the milk sugar known as
lactose; eating dairy products causes them assorted digestive woes and misery. Most adults
of Asian, African, Middle Eastern, and Native American descent are lactose intolerant, as
are half of Hispanics and about 20% of Caucasians. The exception is people of northern
European descent, whose bodies continue to produce enough lactase throughout their lives.
In addition, the consumption of cow's milk has become a point of controversy among
doctors and nutritionists and has been associated with a variety of health problems in a large
number of studies. The major problems are osteoporosis2, breast cancer, early onset of puberty in girls, and
Yes, you read that right: osteoporosis. In spite of the dairy industry's claims that calcium
builds strong bones, many studies have shown that the highest rates of the disease occur in
countries with the greatest consumption of dairy products, namely the United States,
Finland, and Sweden. By contrast, we find a much lower percentage of osteoporosis in
countries whose residents consume very little dairy.
Cow's milk also contains hormones that researchers suspect are partly to blame for both
the increased incidence of cancer and the falling average age of puberty among girls in
developed nations. One of these hormones is insulin-like growth factor (IGF), which
coincidentally is chemically identical in cows and humans.
'In addition, aAs if this weren't enough, many dairy cows in the United States are
growing number of epidemiological studies suggest that increased serum levels of IGFs and/or
altered levels of their binding proteins are associated with increased risk for developing
several malignancies. These data indicate that IGF dysregulation should now be considered as
an important independent factor for cancer risk, and a potential target for novel
antineoplastic therapies and/or preventative strategies in high-risk groups.'
--Oncology (International Journal of Cancer Research and Treatment) Vol. 63, No. 4,
being fed hormones such as Monsanto's rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), which
speeds up the cow's production of IGF and causes her to produce up to 30% more milk. A
number of countries around the world have banned the use of rBGH.
Some nutritionists also claim that casein, the protein that forms 80% of milk's content,
causes the body to produce histamines. They say that the body reacts to this foreign protein
by creating antibodies; this antibody-antigen reaction creates histamines. They speculate
that this process may contribute to the increase in asthma and allergies that we're seeing in
Well. If, after all that, you're still in the mood for ice cream, you have some options.
There are ice cream producers in the United States that buy their milk from farmers who
have pledged not to use bovine growth hormone on their herds. Ben & Jerry's is one such
producer. If you're not worried about hormones but don't want the fat and calories of
premium ice cream, you can try one of the low-fat dairy products. They're nowhere as tasty
as the real thing, lacking that all-important mouth feel, but health-conscious folks who are
already watching their diets probably feel that this is a small price to pay for saving their
If you're avoiding dairy products altogether, you can try 'ice cream' made with soy milk.
It isn't as awful as it sounds. I've tried it3, and it tastes like the low-fat dairy ice cream.
Some flavours are better than others. Pour on the chocolate syrup or use it in a banana split
(hold the whipped cream) and you'll be fine.
And last we have the various sorbets that have no milk or soy milk in them. They're sweet,
they're refreshing, they're not ice cream. 'Nough said.
How to Eat Ice Cream
Time to dig in. My favourite method is grabbing a pint out of the fridge and
unceremoniously demolishing it. Four servings in a pint? Get serious.
This method lacks style, though. The ice cream cone is the quintessential ice cream
experience. Eating one is an art perfected by children and sometimes forgotten by adults. A
- Fill the cone with one or more scoops of ice cream.
- Lick the ice cream slowly, savouring every mouthful, until it is almost level with top of the
cone. Make sure you end up with an ice cream 'moustache'. Dripping melted ice cream on your
clothes is optional and, if the day is hot, inevitable. If you're under the age of 5, get some
ice cream in your hair as well. Wear your mess proudly.
- When the ice cream is nearly level with the top of the cone, bite out the bottom of the
cone. Watch out for melted ice cream! Suck the rest of the ice cream through the bottom of
the cone. Make plenty of noise to annoy bystanders.
- When all the ice cream is gone, eat the cone or feed it to lurking squirrels or ducks.
Wipe your hands on your clothes when you're done.
More Than You Probably Want to Know
Here are some links to various dairy associations with information that will make you feel
virtuous about eating ice cream:
- Dairy Australia
- The Dairy Council (UK)
- National Dairy Council
- International Dairy Foods Association (a
lobbying group based in USA)
And for the opposing view:
- the NotMilk web site provides
more than enough worrisome information about dairy products in general.
Stupid gender-neutral nouns...2A debilitating disease
characterized by low bone mass and deteriorating bone tissue. It can cause recurring back
pain, loss of height, and spinal deformities. People often don't know they have the disease
until a bone fractures.3In the spirit of scientific
experimentation, of course.