The ice cream case has really exploded in recent years. It used to be that you had your ice cream, your ice milk, your sherbet, and that was the end of it. But now we have about a thousand different options on both ends of the spectrum. New York Times columnist Dan Barry recently explored one of them: a new offering from Breyer called "frozen dairy dessert."
Ice cream's identity crisis mirrors our own
So many options!
In Barry's childhood home, Breyer ice cream meant a special occasion. I get that, although I'm young enough (!!) that when I was a kid, it was Haagen-Dasz which had this connotation. But I vividly remember my grandmother's preference for ultra-cheap ice milk, with the shards and brittle matrixes of ice that were frequently found within.
Regardless, Barry was dismayed to discover that Breyers has started watering down their brand name with this bizarre, fake food "frozen dairy dessert." He equates it to Kraft Singles American Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product, which is probably apt. In that frozen dairy dessert isn't just fake ice cream, it's also cheaper than real ice cream, and more appealing to children.
(What is it about children, that they inevitably prefer the fake substance over the real one? Chicken nuggets over chicken meat; Kraft Singles over cheddar; frozen dairy dessert over ice cream.)
But hey, if frozen dairy dessert isn't your thing, then there's also frozen yogurt, frozen low-fat yogurt, non-dairy ice cream made with rice milk, frozen Greek yogurt, and slow-churned ice cream which is low fat and high in whipped-in air. Not to mention the small local artisanal brands which vary from state to state. (In my area, the local gourmet ice cream favorite is from Lopez Island Creamery…. Soooo good!)
If you do prefer frozen dairy dessert, here too you have many options. Not just the Breyers stuff; there's also a thousand different kinds of novelty treats based around a substance which is almost-but-not-quite ice cream, including Fudgesicles and Drumsticks. As well as the perennial kid's party favorite, those little tubs of sherbet with the built-in wooden spoon paddle thingies. (I could eat about eight of those right now, myself.)
In essence, the ice cream aisle is experiencing a splintering that mirrors what is happening in our own economy. Just as the middle class is slowly dwindling as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, ice cream is being divided into high-class gourmet ice cream and "frozen dairy dessert."