Peace, Love and Ice Cream
It was a 6 hour drive through the frigid snowy state of New York and into Vermont. New England is brutal in February, but our mission to ice cream mecca could not be derailed. I heard tale of the Ben & Jerry’s factory when I was much smaller at an American sleep away camp, where my northern friends from New York City had introduced me to a world of the chunkiest and most decadent dessert.
My training began with Phish Food, its marshmallow swirls, gooey caramel, fudgy fish-shaped chunks, and the richest, creamiest, chocolate base. It was then I achieved an ice cream-induced awakening that turned into a dragon I’d be chasing for life. It was love at first pint.
I melt for their quirky, playful product descriptions; their ‘taste bud boggling combinations of spoon bending chunks’ or ‘a cool cruise through a fudge-kissed coconutty ocean, a quick dip in the caramel sea, a thrill-dive deep in the well of thick, gooey caramel.’ Please, can I dive in that well of gooey caramel? I imagine the best job in the world is to taste and describe each new multi-ingredient flavour profile. A whimsical profession that allows one to demand more caramel chocolate unicorns and the privilege to actualise an otherwise ridiculous request.
After years of taste testing and preparing, I’d finally arrived. We walked up a green path to a factory where pine trees, covered in white snow, slowly revealed an iconic playground, with imagery that turned on my taste buds. Walls were painted with green pastures and blue skies, featuring smiling cows like a theme park for dairy that took me on a rollercoaster of nostalgia.
I was Charlie and the factory was right in front of me, a paradise of all that I love in this world; chocolate and nature in harmony. I raced to take a mugshot in a pint of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough with my partner in life who had the very same urge. We shared a love for this love of decadence and this moment was, in the words of Ben & Jerry, euphoric.
Dawdling around, counting the flavours we’d already tried (if we were being graded I’d certainly get a distinction) we followed our expectedly cheerful guide. In and out we walked through the practical corridors of the working factory, screening dated videos about Ben & Jerry, their use of local farmers, their solid business ethics, and their Americone Dream come true. We leaned against the glass to watch pints being packed and ended on a high note sampling a new banana, chocolate chip flavour at least 3 times (ok 5).
We inquired with employees about their time working at this Disney World of ice cream. ‘Do you get to eat all the ice cream you want?,’ asking for a friend. They all agree that yes, they have access to a nearly endless supply, allotted 3 pints per day, but they usually cool down after they gain their initiation ‘Ben 10.’ This irresistible 5 kilos (10 US pounds or so) of ice cream is worthily added to your dress size in the first couple months of employment, after snacking on a different flavour for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And while I have yet to work directly for Ben and/or Jerry, I too have gained a ‘Ben 10’; I like to think of it as constant huggable devotion that I, unfortunately, do not get paid for.
Fantastically, after decking ourselves out with the appropriate t-shirts, stickers, and other necessities, an ongoing special for spending way too much money in the shop left us with 10 free scoops of ice cream. Ready for the near dozen flavours, squealing, we chose TEN scoops of classic, new and old. Making our way through luxurious spoonfuls of cheesecake brownies, chocolate pudding ice cream, peanut butter cups, fudge-covered pretzels, and cinnamon swirls, together we had reached a caloric nirvana.
The sun had already set just after 4pm when we mustered all our strength to roll out of our seats and head back to the car, delusional with sugary delight. It was soul and stomach filling. I love that I can always count on losing myself in a tub of New York Super Fudge Chunk (it’s my favourite..for now), and reliving an enraptured moment of dairy-induced zen.
I may not believe in heaven but I do believe in ice cream.
Shaina is a writer, traveller, and eater who fell for the Mother City over a decade ago. You’ll likely find her at Kleinsky’s eating a bagel and drinking a cortado.