A New Sign Of The Approaching Apocalypse: Melt-Resistant Ice Cream

We’re in the midst of an era of profound technological change, with advancements in “smart” technology, robots, self-driving cars, designer plant and animal breeds, and countless other developments that all have one overarching goal — to allow lazy, pampered human beings to move and do as little as possible while being amply fed, tracked, and tended.

thebslaproteAnd now there’s been a development that is the latest sign of the approaching apocalypse:  scientists have developed melt-resistant ice cream.  The scientists determined that “banana plant waste,” in the form of tiny fibers from the banana plant stem, can be mixed into ice cream compounds and significantly slow the rate of melting.  The resulting mixture also is supposed to be creamier and potentially healthier, because . . . . well, because banana stem fibers are bound to be healthier than the combination of sugar, cream, chocolate, and other totally empty calories that make ice cream so delectable in the first place.

Some might argue, as the article linked above does, that this is a significant positive development that won’t leave ice cream consumers with “sticky hands” and “stained pants.”  I think the exact opposite is true.  The meltiness of ice cream on a hot day is part of the fun, requiring inventive ice cream fans to develop highly technical strategies on how to approach their cones in a way that minimizes melt loss and maximizes actual consumption of ice cream, like regular use of the “around the top of the cone” lick, careful attention to telltale signs that parts of the ice cream scoop might be liquefying, and properly timing the decision to bite into the bottom of the cone itself to allow all of the cool, already melted ice cream to run into your happy, waiting mouth.

Now, thanks to banana fiber technology, we won’t have to worry about such things and instead will be able to take desultory licks of our cones without thought or fear of consequences.  Is that really something to be hailed as a profound advancement in the history of homo sapiens?

You’ll be surprised to learn that I’m not a fan of self-driving cars, either.

All About The Back Story

IMG_5688It’s an unfortunately common reality of urban life that people randomly put trash into those free publication stands that dot the downtown sidewalks.  Nothing unusual there.

But when the trash just happens to be an empty, scraped clean half gallon tub of Turkey Hill ice cream, and when the free publication stand just happens to be right outside the front door of a yoga/”life coaching”/boot camp/pilates/workout studio — well, then, you would expect that there is a rich back story waiting to be told.

Waiting For Jeniday

IMG_5483Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer, but for many people in Columbus it really isn’t summer until they’ve had their first lick of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream on a hot sunny day.  So far this spring that’s been impossible, because a listeria outbreak caused Jeni’s to shut down its operations.  But Jeni’s is getting ready to reopen and will begin selling its ice cream again at 7 p.m. on May 22.  Expect long lines at the German Village window on Mohawk Street!

The North Market apparently will be closed at 7 pm. on May 22 — because this sign at the Jeni’s counter there says that, for North Market patrons, Jeniday won’t come until May 23.

The Flavor Of The Week

I notice that the Baylor Bears lost to the Oklahoma State Cowboys last night.  In fact, losing doesn’t seem quite like the accurate word when you fall by a score like 49-14.  Perhaps crushed is more accurate.  Or obliterated.  Or shellacked.

I’ve got nothing against Baylor, and I’m not one of those thin-skinned Ohio State fans who becomes enraged at every perceived slight from the national media.  I don’t watch ESPN, I don’t read sports columnists on line, and I really don’t much care what some carefully coiffed commentator has to say about whether one team is better than another — because they are so often, and so predictably, wrong, wrong, and wrong again.

This season, however, members of Buckeye Nation can’t help but notice that the sports chat community always seems to want to talk up some team other than Ohio State.  I think that’s not only because the TV shows and the talk radio community focus on ginning up controversy to attract viewers, but also because they are just dazzled by high-scoring offenses.  Until yesterday, Baylor was a high-flying offense that was putting up the points, just as Oregon had done before it.  (Coincidentally, Oregon also got mauled yesterday.)  These teams are like the flavor of the week at the local ice cream shop — it’s interesting to try the vanilla mango cherry pistachio mix, but at the end of the week you realize chocolate chip is just better.

It’s an old saying in college football that November separates the contenders from the pretenders.  With Michigan Week now officially upon us, Ohio State remains undefeated.  There are not many teams left that can say that.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams At Home

If you live in Columbus, you’ve undoubtedly heard someone rave about Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams — or, even better, you’ve experienced them yourself.  If you don’t live in Columbus, you really need to stop by just to try some of Jeni’s stunningly good ice cream.

Jeni Britton Bauer will be one of the featured authors at the Ohioana Book Festival on Saturday, May 12 on the Fort Hayes campus.  She’ll be talking about Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams At Home — an ice cream cookbook that my friends say is spectacular, just like Jeni’s ice cream.  And anyone who reads cookbooks knows that a really good cookbook tells you a lot about the cook who wrote it.  From Jeni’s cookbook, I’m guessing that she will be a really interesting person to listen to.  She’ll be one of the authors participating in a panel discussion entitled Food:  The Seduction of Flavor at 11:45 a.m.  (Great title for the panel discussion, isn’t it?)  The YouTube video below tells you a little bit more about Jeni Britton Bauer and her ice cream passions.

What’s summer without a little ice cream?  If the ice cream is something fabulous like Jeni’s salty caramel, made at home, so much the better.  Jeni Britton Bauer alone is a good reason to stop by the Ohioana Book Festival this coming Saturday.

A Great Root Beer Float On A Hot Summer Day

There is nothing quite so satisfying on a scorchingly hot summer day as a well-made root beer float.

In this case, the root beer float was supplied by the Pied Piper in Huron, Ohio.  The Pied Piper is one of those places that has been around for decades, supplying soft-serve ice cream and milkshakes and banana splits to parched patrons during the summer months.  I can attest from first-hand knowledge that they know how to make a great root beer float.

The great root beer float starts, of course, with the root beer.  It has to be smooth yet flavorful, with that deep, dark tang that you find only in good root beer.  Then, you must add fine vanilla ice cream — soft-serve is best — in just the right proportion.  Skrimp on the ice cream, and you just end up with unsatisfying, milky root beer.  Put in too much ice cream, and the root beer is overwhelmed.  The ice cream also must be added in a way to create a kind of root beer foam at the top of the cup that can be skimmed off with a spoon and enjoyed as the ice cream begins to melt.

The implements provided also are key.  A straw is essential, both for sipping the root beer concoction (but watch out for brain freeze!) and for puncturing the bobbing blob of ice cream to facilitate the ice cream/root beer melding process.  And a spoon is crucial, not only for the preliminary foam skimming but also to allow consumption of the heavenly spoon-worthy slush at the bottom of the cup, after the melding process has been fully realized, and you are left with a rich, creamy combination that is fit for a king — or a Pied Piper.

As I said, there is nothing quite so satisfying as a root beer float on a hot summer’s day.

Welcome To The ‘Hood

For a brief, grim period, the New Albany Market Street area was without an ice cream shop after Chocolate Octopus, a long-time tenant in the Market Street area, closed.  That depressing time has now ended, because Johnson’s Ice Cream has moved into the old Chocolate Octopus space and is dishing out cold and creamy concoctions to all comers.  Kish, Richard and I walked up there after dinner recently, and the ice cream was quite good.

Every community needs a neighborhood ice cream shop where people can hang during the hot summer months, and Johnson’s really fills that bill.  Welcome, Johnson’s — we are glad you are here!