A few weeks ago while in Vermont, I got to visit the magical and tasty Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury. However, while Ben & Jerry’s is my ice cream of choice, their penchant for adding swirls and chunks of candies and fruit to create their many eclectic flavors make partaking in their cups and cones as dangerous as it can be delightful.
Let me drop a little knowledge on you all, before getting to my real point…
Years ago a Kit Kat bar (for example), which is chocolate and wafer, never made any mention on its label of the fact that people with nut allergies need beware. Chocolate and wafer were the ingredients listed right on the front, so if you could eat those, you knew you were set. Then, to cover their asses, every major corporation that uses the same facility for making something like a peanut-filled Snickers bar as they did something like a peanut-free Kit Kat bar put a warning on the label: “may contain peanuts” or “made in a facility that processes peanuts.” So, instead of actually doing a good job of rinsing down and making sure their facilities are rid of peanuts before moving on to the next batch, it was easier to do whatever basic cleaning they were already doing—even if it wasn’t thorough enough to convince their lawyers that a warning wasn’t needed—and just add the catch-all advisory to their labels. Basically, if it is mass manufactured nowadays, it has a universal warning and if allergy prone people like myself never took the risk, we’d essentially have to rule out ever eating candy bars and most other packaged and prepared products.
Another bit of history I should go into before I continue is the fact that the closest the Legume Legion has ever come to defeating me, Jim Gibbons, was with some cleverly disguised ice cream. In a dark basement at the ice cream bar of a going away party, I opted for some Twix ice cream, but alas, it was Peanut Butter Twix ice cream! Duped and nearly defeated, I spent the night in the ER, closer than I’d ever been to death’s door— a mighty stroke from my peanut nemesis, but one that I still walked away from.
That all said, Ben & Jerry’s—for all their nutty flavors—are one of the good guys. The corporation seems very aware of allergies and their products that aren’t supposed to feature nuts, don’t come with catch-all warnings because they are a cautious company before the fact, not simply afterward in a legal capacity. Also, at their scoop shops, a simple mention of a peanut allergy will have the attendants there busting out brand new scoops and barrels of ice cream just to make sure they aren’t accidentally contaminating a cone, unlike places like Dairy Queen that put a small sign on the window announcing that if you have an allergy and order, they aren’t responsible and you’ve taken your life into your own hands.
Now, here’s where the battle comes in…
Being allergic to peanuts, I’d just as soon never have them in or around any ice cream, but obviously some people would disagree. This basic argument over taste and the fact that ice cream can have nearly anything added to it to create a flavor, are what make ice cream a battleground in the fight against the peanut. Not many foods can universally feature flavors or variations with or without peanuts, but ice cream is one of the major ones—a veritable food arena for the battle of man versus peanut on par with great stadiums like Madison Square Garden.
During my visit, the first strike came from peanuts as I saw that Peanut Butter Cup was amongst the top ten best-selling flavors of all time for Ben & Jerry’s. This opening shot was quickly rebuked by the fact that the other nine best sellers were safe for the peanut allergy crowd.
Later, a visit to the Flavor Graveyard (where retired and unsuccessful Ben & Jerry’s flavor experiments go to die) revealed that many attempts at peanut and nutty flavors had met with swift death at the hand’s of the American public’s palate. Thankfully I was there to tout the victory over their graves!
Pistachio flavored ice cream with almonds and roasted pistachios, this foe lasted only a year before meeting his end!
The most familiar face of my peanut foe, this flavor tried to play upon the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich phenomena that has swept this great land for far too long. Still, after but a year, this juggernaut of peanut culture met it’s doom in the field of ice cream. Every enemy of peanuts can rejoice over this victory!
Yes, many other flavors were also laid to rest in Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard, and a few others also contained nuts. Still, seeing these two trouble-making flavors laid low was enough cause for a beet red summer beer from Vermont’s Magic Hat brewery called Wacko, a delightful elixir to celebrate the demise of food-based foes!
All photos courtesy of Between Two Whiles.