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An Ice Cream Binge Across America



For those of you who read my post about the science of ice cream making, you already know how much I enjoy making and eating ice cream. In her book, Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America, Amy Ettinger claims that the average American eats twenty-two pounds of ice cream a year. I bet I eat at least twice that. For an ice cream and book reading enthusiast, such as myself, Amy Ettinger's book, Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America, would seem to be the perfect combination of my two great loves.

Ettinger shares some interesting histories that I had not known before, such as the fact that the United States Food and Drug Administration considers ice cream a potentially hazardous food item because it "accounted for 2, 594 illnesses between 1990 and 2009, mostly from contaminated eggs or spoiled milk" (Ettinger 56). Ice cream is apparently so hazardous that some historians, according to Ettinger, contend that American President Zachary Taylor died after eating a contaminated "ice milk and frozen cherry surprise" at a Fourth of July party. If you think that's bad, Ettinger educates readers that Coca-Cola was originally made by a former Confederate solider, John Stith Pemberton, who had been hit by a bullet and was addicted to morphine. Looking to ease his pain, Pemberton mixed together alcohol and cocaine and began serving it in his pharmacy as a pain remedy. In other words, America's favorite drink was once upon a time a deadly concoction of cocaine and alcohol, working to simultaneously speed up and slow down your system, not all that different from today's red bull and vodka, made by a slave-owning, drug addicted vet. How's that for wholesome? To add to the scandal, Ettinger informs us that, "officials from the Coca-Cola Company have denied repeatedly, and even under oath, that the product ever contained cocaine. But the historian Mark Pendergast, in his exhaustive unauthorized history of Coca-Cola, insists the beverage started off as a 'nostrum, a patent medication with a distinct cocaine kick...'"(Ettinger 147-148). A quick google search for John Pemberton will reveal that he is credited as the founder of Coca-Cola and that the original beverage did indeed contain cocaine. As if you needed more reasons to distrust corporate America and Big Pharma.

Despite these juicy tidbits, Ettinger's exploration of ice cream making in America, from DIYers in their home, to ice cream trucks in New York City and custard makers in Minnesota, is a bit of a slow read. I found it hard to truly work up the enthusiasm to fully indulge in Ettinger's writing and did not end up finishing the book. Perhaps, in the end, ice cream is just more fun to eat than to read about.

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